For years after the pipeline opened, many residents warned that a major oil spill in northern waters was certain to occur, in part because the oil industry refused to employ double-hulled tankers in the Alaska trade. On the night of March 23, 1989, the Exxon Valdez left the Valdez pipeline terminal bound for Long Beach, California. The tanker’s captain, who had a history of alcohol abuse known to his employers, retired to his cabin after the pilot, who had guided the ship through the Valdez Narrows, had left the ship. The third mate, who lacked the U.S. Coast Guard certificate required for controlling vessels in these waters, was alone on the bridge. In the early hours of March 24, far outside the 16 km (10 mi) wide shipping lanes, the tanker struck Bligh Reef, a well-charted hazard, and ran aground. More than 38 million liters (10 million gallons) of crude oil was discharged into Prince William Sound, making this the worst spill in North American history.
Efforts to clean up the mess proved extremely difficult. Exxon Corporation, the owner of the vessel, paid out several billion dollars in cleanup and litigation costs. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, made up of state and federal officials, was established to administer the disbursement of over $900 million in civil penalties paid by Exxon to restore the environment. The council has provided funds for the purchase of huge tracts of land in Alaska, often bought from Native Regional Corporations, to be used in expanding public parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges. A portion of the money paid in damages was allocated for scientific research and public education. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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