Valdez in the United States

Valdez in Environmental Law

An Exxon oil tanker that hit Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound on 24 March 1989, spilling more than eleven million gallons of oil. The tanker, a single hulled ship that was only three years old, was making a routine rim from the town of Valdez, Alaska, to Long Beach, California.

The captain of the ship was Joseph Hazelwood, a veteran who had taken the Valdez on many trips to and from Long Beach, California. The tanker had loaded oil in Valdez, where the Alaskan pipeline, operated by a consortium of six oil companies called Alyeska, terminates. The tanker was returning to Long Beach.

Glacial ice had moved into the area, and Hazelwood was allegedly drunk at the time the tanker hit the reef. He was not at the helm when the Valdez first ran aground, but he did appear and issue orders that aggravated the situation. According to records, Hazelwood had a history of alcohol abuse and had three drunkdriving convictions. At the time of the spill, Hazelwood did not have a valid driver’s license because of those convictions.

Alyeska was the organization that had filed a contingency plan with Alaska, and under the plan, it was responsible for handling the spill. However, Exxon quickly acknowledged accountability for the wreck and took over the cleanup effort. Alyeska disappeared quietly while Exxon tried to develop and implement a plan.

But no one had anticipated a release of the quantity of oil that poured into the water. The situation worsened as untrained, unprepared people tried to gather equipment and get approval to contain and remove the oil. As word of the disaster spread, the media, the community, the government, and Exxon held numerous meetings but could not get organized.

Exxon spent millions of dollars trying to remedy the situation, but environmental damage was extensive. Oil destroyed aquatic life, birds, and shorelines. By the time it was over, Exxon had paid $3.5 billion in cleanup and civil and criminal fines; it also paid $9.7 million to Alaskan businesses. Exxon was also sued by numerous people, including governmental representatives, environmentalists, and fishermen. The case brought by fishermen resulted in a judgment against Exxon in the amount of $5 billion in punitive damages and $287 million to compensate for the loss.

The spill illustrated the need for the kind of emergency planning that could translate into an effective oil spill response. In 1990, Congress enacted the Oil Pollution Act. It requires double hulled tankers, planning, training, drills, financial responsibility, and coordination.
Based on “Environment and the Law. A Dictionary”.

Valdez: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Valdez. This part provides references, in relation to Valdez, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Valdez by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Valdez and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Valdez or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Valdez and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Valdez. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Valdez should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Valdez when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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