The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

Rocking the Boat


The following is from the editorial page of the May 11, 1989 Seward Phoenix LOG.

SETTLE THE CLAIMS... The best public relations tool that Exxon can use right now is settlement. The longer the people hurt by the grounding of the tanker Exxon Valdez wait, the angrier and more desperate the people will become.

There’s no doubt that Exxon can afford to settle the numerous claims arising out of the spill. The multi-national oil company is the second largest corporation in the United States. The direct impact of the spill’s consequences on Exxon can be easily remedied by simply raising the price of gasoline. This they’re already done. It’s not so simple for fishermen, the small businessmen and the processors. The fishermen just can’t go out there and catch more fish to sell to the canneries. Without fish, there’s no cash flow to sustain the local economies.

Exxon has publicly stated that they will quickly settle the claims. We hope they do, and not use the example set by the Amoco Cadiz spill off the coast of France. It’s been 11 years since that 65 million gallon spill, yet many of the people harmed have not been compensated.

Exxon needs to show good faith. They’ve got enough problems, all associated with world-wide negative publicity. The last thing that Exxon should want to do is tick off the local people in the impacted areas any more than they already are.

How quickly Exxon settles the claims is going to reflect on the entire oil industry, just as the spill has. There have been other oil companies which have tried to be good corporate neighbors. Largely absent has been Exxon. It’s time they start trying to be a good neighbor and the best first step is to try to make right what is clearly their wrong.

HIRE LOCAL PEOPLE... The people of the impacted areas have to watch closely the hiring of people during the cleanup effort. This isn’t the North Slope where the oil industry has paid lip service to Alaska hire. The Slope has produced more 30-day Alaskans than any other industry.

For many, the Slope is “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s hard to get to, all of the camps are owned and operated by oil service companies. The oil industry controls almost all in-flow and out-flow, from hiring to news gathering. No so in the impacted areas. The people in southcentral Alaska don’t depend on the oil industry for their jobs. The people down here don’t have to rely on news releases from public relations firms to find out what’s happening. The people of the impacted areas are independent and eager to speak their minds. The local people are here by choice, most not because the money may be good, but because they like it here. When the oil cleanup effort is completed, local people won’t jump on a plane to a home in the Lower 48. They’ll stay and find other ways to survive, just as they had before the oil spill.

Local people have an investment in the future of the impacted area. It’s us who have been directly impacted by the spill. The livelihoods of many have been harmed, or at the very least suffered inconvenience, so it it’s only right that local people should be compensated even if it’s only a job on an oil spill cleanup gang or washing otters.

On the North Slope it’s easy to be arrogant and to ignore the prevailing public policy and opinion. Not so in the impacted areas.


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