Twenty-five years later, ExxonMobil is still in debt to the government by a nearly $100 million of borrowed funds used in the recovery from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, where a tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil on the Alaska coast in 1989. In 2006, the U.S. government and Alaska jointly filed a reopener against ExxonMobil, demanding that the oil company pay $92 million in order to recover funds lost from the Valdez spill.

It has been seven years since the reopener was filed, and ExxonMobil has yet to pay up. Since the Exxon Valdez spill, Alaska has suffered massive ecological and economic hardship, and the replenishment of the funds could aid in speeding up the already ridiculously drawn-out recovery. Lingering oil from over two decades ago can still be found on the shores of the Exxon Valdez spill site and the ecosystem is still recovering from the effects of crude oil.

The Deepwater Horizon, or “BP”, oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill in both the extent of damage and recovery funds needed, and Alaska’s twenty-five-year recovery from the Exxon Valdez oil spill could very well be an indicator of how long it will take those affected along the Gulf Coast to recover financially and environmentally from the BP spill.

Within the past month, BP has begun a campaign designed to bully businesses and individuals affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill, saying they are being forced to pay inflated and fraudulent claims. It seems the big-money oil companies, who rake in billions of dollars in profit each year have only money on their agenda, will do anything to stall paying out funds owed for recovery.

“BP generates almost $400 billion a year. It now cries ‘foul’ when it is projected to pay about three months of earnings to compensate families and businesses for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It is ironic that BP talks about people “getting something for nothing” when that’s exactly what BP is trying to do,” commented Brian Barr, a BP litigation attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm.

Nevertheless, the government can learn valuable lessons from the Exxon Valdez spill to ensure that the same mistakes are not made in the Gulf of Mexico’s recovery from the Deepwater Horizon incident.


Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.