August 25, 2006

Petron dilly-dallying on oil spill cleanup

Passion For Reason : Wrong lessons from Exxon Valdez

By Raul Pangalangan

GIVEN the scale of the environmental emergency, Petron seems too laid back in responding to the Guimaras oil spill. Either Petron has not learned any lesson from the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, or it has learned one wrong lesson only too well: that it can shift the blame elsewhere and eventually wash its hands of any responsibility. "ExxonMobil's tactics are well known . a classic case of deny, dupe and delay," said Greenpeace.

On March 24, 1989, minutes past midnight, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in pristine waters in Alaska, spilling more than 11 million gallons of crude oil, the worst oil spill in US history.

First, for the lesson that we're not so sure the government or Petron Corp. bothered to learn. The first action of the US Coast Guard was to immediately close the area to traffic, and dispatch investigators to the scene to assess the damage. By noon the next day, a state and a federal response team was formed. Thereafter the local oil industry group assumed
responsibility for the cleanup, in accordance with existing contingency plans.

Three methods were tried in the effort to clean up the spill: "burning" (during the earliest stages of the spill), then "chemical dispersants" (within the first 24 hours), and then "mechanical cleanup" (after the first 24 hours of the spill).

Now, for the part of the lesson that Petron may like better. Today, 17 years after the incident, Exxon has continued to block the 1994 award of $287 million for actual damages and $4.5 billion for punitive damages, equivalent to a single year's profit by Exxon at that time. Still pending appeal right now, a verdict is expected next month. (Published on the INQ7 web site, Aug. 25, 2006. Click blog title for rest of the story.)

Click here for a map of the oil spill from the World Wildlife Fund web site. Other news at INQ7 and Sunstar web sites.

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