Monday, March 31, 2014

Exxon Valdez oil spill; the scab that never heals

Deborah Brollini

I thought I had moved on from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Then Governor Parnell ripped the scab off by appointing a retired out-of-state oil executive to the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) board. I do not have a problem with ExxonMobil being a part of a project. However, HELL NO on being on the AGDC board. The Governor yanked off the scab and the memories started flooding back.

On the day the Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef I was working for the law firm Tugman, Clark and Ray foreclosing on homes. I have learned since the oil spill that Chuck Ray is one of the best maritime lawyers in the country. As an employee, and Alaskan our little law firm was thrown on the front lines representing fishermen, and I did not know what to think of it. I left the law firm shortly after the oil spill and began working for CACI, a litigation firm representing the federal government as a party in the Exxon Valdez litigation.

I was the first employee and Alaskan hired as a senior paralegal with CACI representing the federal government setting up an Exxon Valdez litigation center in the building where McGinleys now resides.

I walked to both state and federal courts twice a day everyday to obtain court dockets. I sat in on federal and state hearings. I reviewed and summarized documents, reports, and hearings for high-level officials. I supervised paralegals on the front lines. I was present when the jury convicted Hazelwood. Judge Johnstone summoned me to his chambers during the Hazelwood trial. (Talk about scaring the hell out of a 20 something young professional with a judge who wants your head on a stick, and a room full of powerful suits). I know more than any Alaskan should ever know about the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

I coordinated scientific meetings which are now housed in the PWS Advisory Council. It was not an environmentalist frenzy at the time. I sat in a room with the best of the best in scientific knowledge, and Alaskans who cared deeply about our state. I am proud of being part of these scientific meetings. I never cared about birds, fish, otters, killer whales, or the Prince William Sound ecosystem prior to the oil spill. Alaska learned a lot since the oil spill, and we have a come a long way in oil spill response preparedness

Unfortunately, the Exxon Valdez oil spill born an environmentalist movement that uses our state, and uses the oil spill to fundraise, and to shut down resource development in Alaska.

I remember vividly like it was yesterday fishermen wailing during meetings and trying to hold back tears, and crying inconsolably after meetings. ExxonMobil needs to settle its litigation with Alaskans for me to move on.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill impacted me profoundly deep into my soul. I no longer wanted to work as a paralegal, and I changed my major to business in college, and I eventually left my job with CACI. I ended up taking a year off to concentrate on college, and went on to work for Dr. Ted Mala who was the Commissioner of Health and Social Services during the Hickel administration.