“They have a miniscule number of boats compared to what was available in the Gulf of Mexico,” [Peter Van Tuyn, and environmental lawyer in Anchorage] says, and in the Gulf, “they didn’t have to deal with the extreme weather conditions that we’ve got in the Arctic.” High winds are the norm, and sea ice is always a possible hazard, “and yet they [Shell] claim they can collect as much as 95 percent.”
Merrell says the company has made no such claim. Instead, he says, the oil company’s plan is to confront 95 percent of the oil out in the open water, before it comes ashore. That doesn’t mean responders can collect what they encounter.
“Because the on-scene conditions can be so variable, it would be rather ridiculous of us to make any kind of performance guarantee,” Merrell says.
Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith said opposition groups are purposely mischaracterizing Shell’s oil spill response plan. The plan does not claim Shell can clean up 90 percent of an oil spill, he said.
“We say in our plan we expect to ‘encounter’ 90 percent of any discharge on site — very close to the drilling rig,” he said. “We expect to encounter 5 percent near-shore between the drilling rig and the coast. And we expect to encounter another 5 percent on shore. We never make claims about the percent we could actually recover, because conditions vary, of course.”
And today, 23 years later, most of the fish and wildlife populations and habitats injured by the spill have yet to fully recover, and there is still residual, toxic oil in beach sediments. It is becoming evident that the injured Alaska coastal ecosystem may never fully recover from the Exxon Valdez spill.”
What of the promised “state-of-the-art spill response”? Despite a three-year, $2 billion effort by Exxon, the response was a spectacular failure, recovering less than 7 percent of the spilled oil.