Peer Listening: Building resilience in communities affected by human-caused disasters

Community Corner Until 2010, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was the largest oil spill disaster in U.S. waters. That March, people around the world turned on the news to see our devastated wildlife and beaches. No one doubted that the environment of Prince William Sound and other downstream areas were hurt. What was not apparent to almost everyone was the short and long term damage to the people in the region’s communities. Technological disasters, such as an oil or chemical spill, a nuclear accident, or a large building fire or collapse, affect communities differently than natural disasters. A technological disaster is caused by humans, and there is a person or persons who can be blamed for the incident. Natural disasters have no one to blame. Natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes, can often be predicted and prepared for. Technological disasters are often unexpected. After the Exxon Valdez spill, the council funded research on how technological disasters affect people living in the area compared to natural disasters. … Continue reading

Stories from a Citizens’ Council – The early years and formation of our council

One of the most radical innovations to come out of the Exxon Valdez spill was the establishment of permanent, industry-funded citizen oversight to promote the environmentally safe operation of the oil industry. It’s now been over a quarter of a century since the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council was formed. To mark that anniversary, the council is releasing this collection of stories about the formation and early development of the council, and the hopes and intentions of some who were closely involved with early days of the council. These stories help us understand how citizens and the oil industry rallied together to create an oversight group to protect Prince William Sound from future oil spills. … Continue reading

Then and Now – 25 years of citizen involvement following the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Then and Now - 25 years of citizen involvement following the Exxon Valdez oil spill - cover

Twenty-six years ago today, the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. While the immediate cause of the spill lies with the captain and crew, complacency on the part of the oil industry, regulators, and the public played a part in the disaster. Many improvements have been made since 1989. Regulators, the oil industry, and citizens have all worked together to improve the prevention and response system in the Sound. Among many other improvements: Tankers are all double-hulled Loaded tankers are all escorted by two powerful tugs with response equipment on board Local fishermen are contracted and trained to help respond to an oil spill Oil spill contingency plans containing details on how to prevent and respond to an oil spill are now mandatory Despite improvements, constant vigilance is still needed to prevent a return of the complacency that allowed the Exxon Valdez spill to happen. … Continue reading

A look back at the early years of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council

One of the most radical innovations to come out of the Exxon Valdez spill was the establishment of permanent, industry-funded citizen oversight to promote the environmentally safe operation of the oil industry. It’s been 25 years since the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council was formed, and to mark that anniversary, The Observer begins a four-part series documenting the founding and early development of the council. … Continue reading