'This Week' in History: The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Exxon's President and Alaska's Governor React to Environmental Disaster

ByEvan Harris
May 02, 2010, 8:39 AM

May 2, 2010— -- When the Exxon Valdez crashed into Alaska's Bligh Reef on March 24, 1989, the tanker began leaking its 54-million-gallon cargo of oil into the Prince William Sound. Before the leak could be contained, about a fifth of the ship's oil was spilled into the water, creating one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history.

The next week on ABC's "This Week with David Brinkley," Exxon's President Lee Raymond and Alaska's Governor Steve Cowper appeared on the program to answer to allegations of negligent operations and inexpedient containment efforts.

"We have had a catastrophic spill, [and] we are sorry we had that catastrophic spill," Raymond told the "This Week" panel. When pressed about how this disaster would influence future decisions about domestic drilling, Raymond responded, "I would urge that people don't make a long-term policy decision in the midst of an emotional kind of crisis."

The Democratic Governor of Alaska, Steve Cowper, described such oils spills as part of the "calculated risk" taken to tap into the nation's oil reserve. "I don't think it's possible to give an absolute guarantee."

Some estimates reflect that 2,000 sea otters, 300 harbor seals and 250,000 seabirds died as a result of the Valdez's oil spill, and the effects are still being felt in the region over twenty years later. Researchers project that the arctic habitat could take thirty years to recover from the damage.

Watch this video from April 2, 1989 as David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson and George Will press the key players in the Exxon Valdez disaster. Then, tune into "This Week" on Sunday as Jake Tapper sits down with BP American President Lamar McCay, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for the latest on the oil spill threatening the America's gulf coast.

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