On a cold March night in 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Southern Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound and creating one of the worst oil spills in American history.

The Lasting Impact of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Disaster

Producers: Scott Michels and Aaron Ernst
Editor: Seth Bomse

This story examines how the spill happened and follows its impact. Using archival footage and interviews with those involved, including former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock and Riki Ott, a fisherman who became an environmental activist in the wake of the spill, the video explains how the focus on a reportedly intoxicated tanker captain obscured a far more complex set of safety failures that led to the spill.

Thirty years later, the jury is still out on just what we have learned from the Exxon Valdez, especially in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Former Senator Bob Graham, co-chairman of the presidential commission that investigated that spill says, “If you come back in the year 2020 and ask what have we learned? Are we safer? I think we’ll know whether we really learned the lesson of Exxon Valdez.”


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