Our community learned a lot about dealing with disaster and healing in the 20 years since Exxon’s oil coated beaches in beautiful Prince William Sound and stripped our lives of innocence. Perhaps we can share some hard-earned wisdom that might save you some of the wrong turns we made.

Consider first the setup. I’ll bet your spill, like ours, was an accident waiting to happen. The promised safety, spill prevention, and spill response measures weren’t there when our accident occurred. The promises had fallen victim to cost-cutting measures in the name of higher profits and cheaper oil.

Don’t think that the government authorities and the industry will see the error of their ways and hasten to set things right. It took an act of Congress (the Oil Pollution Act of 1990), citizen oversight groups composed of spill survivors, and a couple of decades of tireless work on our part to force change. We’re still waiting for every tanker to be double-hulled, a promise made (and broken) as a condition of building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline nearly 35 years ago.

Next consider the spill. Those at fault, including the state and federal governments, will take extraordinary measures to hide the extent of the harm. Your spill has already doubled in size from initial reports. And human health risks? Government officials are telling you no worries, right?

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