To the Editor,

As we reflect on the recent 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I wonder what we take away as lessons learned from this event.

Following the spill, collectively Alaska’s and the federal government’s resources were totally unprepared to contain the spill, which resulted in massive ecosystem losses from which Alaska likely will not recover in our lifetimes, if ever. And, as a result, vessels transporting oil across Prince William Sound are now escorted by one tug and one spill-response vessel and (most) supertankers now are double-hulled. So we learned from our original unpreparedness, right?

Well … in the last presidential election, there was the Republican mantra of “Drill baby, drill.” And so now Shell and ConocoPhillips are pursuing plans (presently on hold) to drill in Arctic waters, although climate change (that is, the climate for being able to obtain insurance) temporarily has suspended drilling efforts. And, of course, there is no present-day technology that could clean up a massive spill in Arctic waters in certain sea and weather conditions. So, at the end of the day, just what did we learn from the Exxon Valdez experience?

My reflections are these. In the interest of helping this Country become less dependent on foreign oil and fuel more available (in the next 10 years), let’s have the State of Alaska insure the offshore oil rigs, free of charge. This way we partner with industry. We make profits off the additional oil from the offshore wells as do the oil companies. And if drilling is so safe, as its proponents argue (despite obvious evidence to the contrary), for massive spills like the Deepwater Horizon in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska will bear the total cleanup and compensation costs for new, offshore oil well spills. Then let’s see how “safe” Alaskan’s feel about offshore drilling in its waters. But if there are compensation dollars to be had, well, so what if there are 1,300 miles of beachfront habit that are impacted and countless animals that suffer and die (as in the Exxon Valdez grounding). This conclusion saddens me, for I think that maybe this is the lesson learned from Exxon Valdez: greed rules. Which makes me value the acquaintance and friendship of those in our community who share, and for whom money is not supreme.

Jeff Stewart

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