tv Stan Jones The Spill CSPAN July 21, 2018 11:50am-12:24pm EDT
state and federal collaboration. the importance of arts in history and preparing the future workforce. as part of our 50 capitals to the journeyan made to juneau, alaska. this weekend on book tv and american history tv we will show you the state's natural beauty and we will delve into the unique history and literary culture. its alaska weekend with programs on c-span, tv and american history tv exploring alaska's natural beauty, history and culture. next week we will take you back to 1989 when the exxon oil tanker hit a reef and spilled 11
million gallons of oil. stan jones is a reporter with the anchorage daily news. he recalls what happened at the effect of alaska. up and it wasoke all over the news. by the time i got to work a new all about it. my first reaction was dis- believe, how could this happen? the second reaction was shock at the enormity of it. they spilled i think 11 million coveredof oil and 11,000 square miles of ocean you for it was her. the scale was inconceivable. >> where were you working? mr. jones: i was a reporter at the anchorage daily news. but also covering business so i had covered oil even before the spill. >> can you tell us what the
history of the oil industry was in alaska #how large was it during that time? in 1967s: it started with their was a huge oil strike . the pipeline began operating in 1973 and that's when the traffic again. about 15 years past before the spill. fromil industry in alaska the date oil was discovered had an enough -- enormous mind share in the state. it was recognized as the biggest source of running for state government. for long time it was the only source that matter. the oil industry produced money so fast it's a coffers that one of the jokes was, even the own less than -- alaska legislator could not waste it all.
say --f it was spent and state services. besides generating all this money, they are always interested in politics and taxes and regulation. over time, their influence over the legislature became enormous. it was almost mandatory to be oil friendly to get elected to the legislature in this date. some of the big companies operating out of here russian mark mr. jones: the big three were ep, exxon mobil and conoco phillips. time, the names have changed as companies merged and absorbed each other. what is now conoco was really arco. but the big players have not change. the big two are bp and exxon. influencetioned there over the legislature. what does that mean for regulations regarding oil in the
state? it was always a battle to get new regulation and vice. -- regulation in place. then there was a factor of what happened in the oil spill. most regulation having to do with the operation of that taker, the exxon valdez were federal in origin and focus. the regulation having to do with cleanup, on the other hand worth fundamentally at the state level. regulations were a big part of the problems with the spill. the federal operation was to lose, that is why the tanker hit by a reef. the cleanup readiness were to lose and that's why the company that runs the system and the tanker terminal were unprepared
for a cleanup. for the first three days, there was no clean up effort. for -- it was ideal cleanup weather. of good three days weather after the spill. we had this glossy lake of oil spreading out from the tanker and essentially nothing happy to clean it up >. >> how does the oil process work? where was it pulled from and why was it on a taker and where was it going? mr. jones: it is produced on alaska's north slope. environment,h tundra, -- country. it is hard to operate and you have to be careful not to disrupt things.
oil industry has done a pretty good job on that part of it. beste north slope the two -- big feels are park and kudo bay. there huge. on the north slope it is put into a pipeline that runs 800 miles south across the middle of alaska to the port of valdez on prince william sound. then it is put on oil tankers and shipped to markets on the u.s. west coast. i think the exxon how these was --ded for 1 -- was head-on headed for long beach. they lost about 20% of its cargo. the rest is history. happenedlk about what on that day? mr. jones: the tanker left
valdez before midnight and sailed out of valdez into prince william sound. -- 12:04 course a.m. it hit the reef which was a well marked navigational hazard in prince william sound. earlier in the day have been reports of icebergs, so the captain requested permission to deviate from the tanker lanes to avoid these icebergs in case they were still there. they were fairly tricky maneuvers but it happened all the time. they were supposed to return to the tanker planes -- lines and instead they sailed into a reef. there were conditions of the strip that contributed to the accident. , it was always a question as to whether he was
drinking and if he was drinking was it a factor. that was never established clearly and i kind of doubt it myself. what he did was to put the third day -- mate in charge of the bridge and went below to do paperwork here at the tanker crews, and this is identified as a factor in the accident, the size had been reduced over the years. there was a constant battle with fatigue and overwork and stress and that was identified as a contributing factor. in charge ofe was the bridge. he was not qualified to do what he was doing. it comes back to the workload of the crew.ss this was all address after the spill. oil was this tanker
carrying and how much spilled out? mr. jones: it had 53 million gallons on board. measured in barrels, so that was one and a quarter million barrels. about 11ill it lost million gallons, which i think was 250,000 barrels. the question of how much it lost its controversial so the number is a generally accepted figure. the reason it is hard to figure -- as oil went out, water came in. in mentioned this happened past people visited what did they find there? mr. jones: it's on the gulf of alaska, a couple hundred miles south of anchorage, is probably
in the middle of the state, it is this beautiful expanse of enclosed waters with islands and peninsulas and coastlines and a sea birdsation of and hours and so on. anyone who has ever been to prince william sound has been stoned by the natural beauty. relatively untouched by man. you don't see much development at all. , maybe cargo boats vessels coming in with containers to the container port in valdez. then you have this tanker let's build this oil and fouled everything in sight. it was a shock to the contents. and to the consciences. into a largepill's
probably of water like that, what does it do to it and how fast is a travel? mr. jones: the oil in and of itself does not travel very fast. isfloats on the top and cured by the currents. they tend to disperse rapidly in the water if it is called -- calm, but it can get turned up by the waves and mixes into the water. when that happens, it is a threat to fish and plankton and so on in the water. after it floats around for a while, it hits the beaches and destroys the beach article system. exxon it alerted that the spill had happened and when did the efforts to try to stop it big in? i am sure exxon was
alerted immediately by the crews . fact that the captain of the ship got on the radio and called the coast guard in valdez immediately, and he said we are aground and leaking some oil. he said on the radio that he was going to try to lock the low and get off the recent proceed, which was a terrifying possibility. there is a good chance it would have sunk or capsized if he had succeeded in doing that. he did not, so the ship stayed on the reef and continue to leak oil. began almost immediately. the problem was there were so few resources and booms and cleanup equipment available that not much could be done.
it started from a tiny beginning and ramped up over the rest of that spring and summer. itwhose responsibility was for the oil spill, did exxon have a plan for that? a response plan, did alaska have a response plan? mr. jones: the responsibility fell on exxon as the shipper. atvaldez, the response plan least in the immediate aftermath of the spill, is carried out by a pipeline service company. were atis a spill, they the time responsible for the first three days of the response effort. they are the ones who send out the holes and the cleanup -- the boats and the cleanup equipment. after that first three days, the spiller is supposed to take over
management of the response and exxon did that. after a relatively short time, it was exxon running the spill. >> what is the process of cleaning up oil? what has to be done and what are some of the challenges? to oversimplify it, there are two aspects of cleanup. one is containment. and the other is removal. are very difficult. we had a huge area that had spilled oil and some of the oil hit the beaches and immersed itself in the sand and among the plants and that kind of thing, so removal is difficult. one of the responses to this bill was to use something called a dispersant. the name was collects it. what it is supposed to do is to break the oil once it gets into
smallerr into tiny globules that can be processed by bacteria and so on in the water. oil villas -- oil is an organic substance and overtime nature will reprocess it into harmless things. clear that it did what it was supposed to. there is some evidence that we ended up with two poisons in the water. and it was arexit bit dismal failure. they had to solutions, one which was ridiculous and one which was devastating. the ridiculous ones and there is a lot of photograph and video they hired people to go out on the beach with paper towels and wipe the oil off of the rocks. yes they did. the second thing they did was
they decided what we will do is we will get high pressure hot water washers and we will blast these oil beaches with this hot water and it will wash the oil black into the water and then we can clean it up. we did clean up some oil that way but they did further damage to the echo systems with this hot water, and always -- and also blasting it deeper into the sand of the cleanup and abysmal failer -- failure for the most part. maybe they got 15 or set of the 15% of the oil. but nobody knows. it is fair to say that the pr effortfort was a to show america and the world that something was being done to clean up this oil. officials said soon after the spill that they were going to clean it all up. of course they did not come
close. >> how far did the oil spread? from the: the farthest exxon valdez that was documented was like 1200 or 1300 miles away. around andts way --. up to the south and of and by c 700 miles. we talked a few minutes ago who had come up with a response plan, and i told you that the primary responsibility lay on --, all of the agencies federal and state that are in line to participate, they had to have their own response plans. everybody in prince william sound, every agency was theoretically ready as a practical matter none of them were here and they were all on the front line.
devastatingl had a impact on the fishing economy of prince william sound. other than people who work with the oil company, wishing was the mainstay of the economy. it was either fishing or nothing. herring, crab. after the spill the fisheries were just closed, because it would have taken one boiled salmon to get the market in seattle to destroy the market for years to come, so they just cut it down -- closed it down. later on it turned out some of those populations were damaged and there were no populations for a while. the fact that fisheries and have been shut down and everybody was going broke forces dilemma on
the fisherman of prince william sound, and that was should they hire their boats and crews and themselves out to exxon to help with the cleanup? there were some who would not do it, they just did not work with x and -- exxon. there were others who could. fore was a derisive term work -- who worked for exxon. the longer-term result of all this disruption in prince william sound was social dysfunction. that was one of the things that was studied by the group i work council,advisory increases in every form of family and social dysfunction that you can imagine. there was more drinking, or suicide, more divorces and
family violence area everything bad that can happen to society, happened to those people in prince william sound. >> how long did it take the cleanup until it was completed? mr. jones: the cleanup was intensive in the first year and i think it continued for another year or two and discontinued. it is were saying that even today there is some oil under some beaches in prince william sound. , buta few thousand gallons it is a testament to the persistence of this oil, that's a cold climate, once the oil gets below the surface it does not a great very fast. it has not been consumed by nature and turned into routine compounds. >> did congress ever get involved #--? does,y did what congress they passed legislation and did hearings.
the biggest legislative up -- oh, was an oil pollution act of defects thatmedy led to the spill. points were some the key ? mr. jones: there were several. that tankers be -- escorteds gordon out of prince william sound. it also had response equipment would surrey -- in theory be able to help if the tankers started to leak oil. the other big change, which was advocated by people in prince william sound and by alaska's in
double, was to require hulls on oil tankers. those, you had a bunch of oil in the tanker and an inch of still -- steel and seawater. any option would result in an or with double halls on the size of tankers used in prince william sound there are two byls -- hulls, separated whatever they wanted in there. you can get a fairly serious puncture and have no leak. it was estimated after a spill that is the exxon valdez had a double hall the spill would have --n dramatically reduced hull. bureaucracies after 99
-- 1990 did recall that ships coming into all american ports that carried oil had to have double hulls. do this oil spill affect the oil industries influence in the alaska legislature and also did alaska impose any regulations? mr. jones: alaska law was revised and regulations were revised also. congress took some of the lessons involved and as far as the political climate is involved, for a year or two alaskans were down on the oil industry, but that passed. the biggest source of donations to the legislatures when the people working in the oil industry. a lot of people know that the benefits i get from the state comes from the tax from the oil
industry. we have this thing called the alaska permanent fund, which is made up entirely from part of the oil revenue. i think it stands at $60 billion. the income from that is paying for state government because all revenues have declined as oil production have declined. one of the reasons that fund has been looked to is the alaska permanent fund dividend. ae state sends every alaskan check. alaskan getsevery this dividend and we all know that it comes from oil money. now it is the earnings from the fund. as i said earlier, oil from the oil industry has a tremendous mind share in alaska. it is a love-hate relationship.
a lot of people hated them because of the spill and still do. it is like a bad marriage. it is not quite bad enough to get out of. >> can we talk about the about the bp oil spill. were there any similarities and did they learn anything from what had happened in alaska? mr. jones: there are no real parallels in the operational sense. what was similar us for us alaskans watching from afar was the fact that the oil industry was caught flat-footed. i know they had plans to keep that from happening on the oil rig, but did any of it were, no it did not. that oil spread and spread and spread. what was familiar and to a
considerable extent was the impact on communities that lived along the coast of the gulf, especially the fishing communities. spill, a lot of people from that area came up. to look at what we had done in the prince regional sound -- prince william sound. to give a mechanism to force citizens to have a voice in how the oil companies operate. the condo spill was much larger than accept out these and it went on for day after day and a conceivable amount of time. >> do you think that the oil industry has learned its lesson oil spillz and the off the coast of louisiana? in the immediate
aftermath they did respond. their response, if history is a guide those lessons will be lost. the attention of the public will turn to other matters. industry getting lighter regulation, they will always be there and there will always be doing that. capitalismying about that is not quite as damning. moral, it has no soul or conscience. the goal of capitalism is to minimize costs and maximize revenue. it will always do that because that is in its dna. capitalism is a wonderful tool for increasing economic efficiency. it comes with a whole set of risks and we have seen the consequences in the gulf of mexico and it prince william
sound. what society must never do is forget that it is up to society to set the rules under which capitalism operates. in and ofcapitalism itself has no soul and no morality. it will do what it has to to make money. it is up to society to never let up. when we do, we get exxon valdez. c-span is live in new mexico where governors from around the nation are getting ready to begin their last day of the national governors association's summer meeting. they're expected to hear about a perspective on state and federal collaboration, the apart tunes -- importance of arts and history education. the discussions will be live on c-span.