“I don’t see an immediate relief,. But I do see that exploitation of existing reserves that may exist, and in the view of many experts that do exist off our coasts, is also a way that we need to provide relief. Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have a psychological impact that I think is beneficial.”
Previously, I pointed out the pro-business majority in SCOTUS and what the Exxon ruling meant for corporate responsibility…or lack thereof. The most personal fallout to Alaskans is the environmental, human and financial impact of this decision. I’m not sure that people understand the long-term consequences.
A study was performed by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2001, 12-years after the Exxon spill. The study determined that out of 91 sites, 58 had evidence of oil:
1) Surface oil was determined to be not a good indicator of subsurface oil.
2) Twenty subsurface pits were classified as heavily oiled. Oil saturated all of the interstitial spaces and was extremely repugnant. These “worst case” pits exhibited an oil mixture that resembled oil encountered in 1989 a few weeks after the spill – highly odiferous, lightly weathered, and very fluid.
3) Subsurface oil was also found at a lower tide height than expected (between 0 and 6 feet), in contrast to the surface oil, which was found mostly at the highest levels of the beach (Table 3). This is significant, because the pits with the most oil were found low in the intertidal zone, closest to the zone of biological production, and indicate that our estimates are conservative at best.
It seemed that the oil WAS having an effect on wildlife all those years later:
Around the same time, researchers monitoring sea otters and harlequin ducks, noticed that populations were not recovering in the most heavily impacted areas. The researchers employed methods to determine whether continued exposure to oil could be a factor. The methods involved the physical examination of individuals encountered in those areas and detection of chemical biomarkers, such as cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A), an enzyme that is produced by animals when they have been exposed poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, a volatile component of unweathered oil.
In addition, there have been studies done to determine the health of ecosystems effected by even earlier oil spills. Per the National Geographic website:
The findings come from a study of the aftermath of an accident that occurred in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, on a foggy morning in September 1969. A Boston-bound barge entering the Cape Cod Canal ran aground on rocks, spilling 175,000 gallons (700,000 liters) of diesel fuel into the bay…
…Evidence from the Buzzards Bay disaster suggests the effects of oil spills could be indefinite. Thirty years after the Massachusetts catastrophe, significant oil residues remain in local salt marsh sediments, according to researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution…
…”Even after all these years, concentrations of some compounds [in at least one Buzzards Bay site] are similar to those observed immediately after the spill…
So the environmental devastation could be “indefinite.”
The human impact has been equally long-term…equally “indefinite.” Families who had been fishing for generations went bankrupt and lost their $100,000+ commercial fishing licenses. Fishing towns like Cordova have had to depend more on tourist dollars…and tourist jobs are considerably lower-paying.
Then, there is the subsistence issue, pointed out poignantly by Writing Raven: ‘A cultural link was definitely broken,’ she said.” I know the high value of these subsistence items, and the difficulty in getting them in the first place. To have something so reckless and harmful happen to traditions lasting millenia bites at the soul.
I was quite struck by this bit in a Yahoo article on the announcement:
“It also was about the end of Alaska Native traditions and a subsistence lifestyle for several villages in the region. Because of the spill, many Alaska Natives were forced to stop harvesting seal, salmon and herring roe and move to urban areas, never to return, said Lange, who is part Aleut and Tlingit.
The loss of hundreds of years of heritage with a Supreme Court guarantee there will be no real consequence for it’s destruction–Gee, sign me up!!!! I doubt seriously that’s what the people of Florida, California or the Carolinas want.
‘A cultural link was definitely broken,’ she said.”
I know the high value of these subsistence items, and the difficulty in getting them in the first place. To have something so reckless and harmful happen to traditions lasting millenia bites at the soul.
I don’t think that offshore drilling will have the “psychological impact” that McCain is hoping for.