Community impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Author: Stephen R. Braund and Jack Kruse
Date: May 2009
Categories: Critical accounts of negative impacts, Oil spills, Reports

The oil spilled in Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) was produced onshore at Prudhoe Bay. The size of the spill was 50 times larger than the largest spill considered in OCS scenarios. It is fair to say that no one imagined that so much oil could be spilled in one event. Unfortunately, however, 11 million gallons of oil did spill from a tanker into the offshore environment. That said, the fact that EVOS occurred does not mean that it constitutes the best high-end scenario for an OCS-related oil spill. Smaller spills are far more likely, particularly given the attention paid to avoiding a repeat of EVOS. For this reason, we will point out in this chapter where the consequences of a much smaller, yet significant, spill would likely have been qualitatively different. We will also point out where further research is required to understand the implications of different scales of oil spills.

Included in this review are MMS sponsored studies conducted prior to and after the EVOS event. This synthesis of published research considers issues that have been “minimally addressed” by research on spill-related community impacts, i.e., “community recovery” and “litigation”.

Finally, the document presents data on the chronic community impacts of the EVOS over a nine year period and concludes with general policy directives for facilitating the mitigation of future oilindustry catastrophes in Alaska. As part of its management strategy under the ESP, MMS sponsored a variety of research projects that provided technical information necessary to manage OCS development effectively. In addition, the National Science Foundation and the Subsistence Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have funded social science projects in the region. The result is a substantial body of social science research informing questions concerning the benefits and risks of energy development to Alaska communities and Native villages.

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