An open letter to President Obama regarding the Gulf oil leak
June 9, 2010 · 9:38 AM
An open letter to President Obama regarding the Gulf oil leak:
Both my husband and I were successful commercial fishermen in Alaska in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred on March 26. It devastated the herring fishery, which usually opened the first part of April. It wreaked havoc on the salmon fisheries as well and caused untold harm to the environment of Prince William Sound and the south central Alaskan Coast line.
I know what the people in the Gulf are feeling and going through. It is such a feeling of hopelessness and incalculable loss. We Alaskans, like the Gulf folks, rolled up our sleeves and did all we could to contain and clean up the mess. We collected, cataloged, then had huge funeral pyres for thousands of dead seabirds. We set up cleaning centers for sea otters. I personally was in charge of sending vessels into the field to aid in the clean up, drafting contacts and evaluating each vessel for its intended use. I wanted as many fishermen to work as possible because, like the Gulf coast, we had lost our fishing season and future and had no way to pay our bills.
Three years later, I did research along the affected coastline and was shocked at how much residual oil remained in quiet coves and shorelines just under the gravel, sand or rocks. The mussels and clams were gone, the seabirds were gone, it was eerily quiet, where it had been full of life. The mayor of Cordova committed suicide, the fishermen and people of Alaska were disheartened, discouraged by Exxon's lack of empathy.
We sued Exxon, we won a $5.4 billion settlement (this was their profit in 1989). Exxon appealed, the award was reduced by half. Exxon appealed again, the amount was upheld. Exxon appealed again, the award was upheld. This time, Exxon went to the Supreme Court; this time they won and the award was reduced to 10 percent of the original amount.
It is now 2010, 21 years later. Exxon is now arguing as to whether they owe interest on what they have withheld from us for 21 years. We have never been paid in full what we were owed or awarded by the lawsuit.
This kind of corporate greed in unconscionable and just plain wrong. My point is very simple: please do what is necessary to guarantee that BP is held fully accountable and does not use the justice system to skirt their responsibility. The people of the Gulf deserve to be treated fairly. Every effort possible for the next many years should be made to recover as much oil as possible and monitor the environmental impacts.
Double-hull oil tankers should be required in all U.S. waters. Tough new regulations need to be put in place to make sure there is a valve or some mechanism to turn off the damn spigot. And finally, I commend your efforts to assist those that are developing alternatives to oil for energy production; please expand the R&D and business development loans to expand and create more jobs and better products.
Pacific Islands Research Institute