To the Editor:
I am writing in response to a letter in the March 6 Daily World about the benefits of crude oil to our community. There were many inaccuracies in the letter but of most concern is the claim that the “…Gulf is returning to normal. Alaska has substantially recovered from its oil spill…” A quick Internet search tells a different story. I’m including just a few here.
The according to a 2012 report in the National Geographic Daily News, NOAA studies show that the impacts from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico continue to be a problem for many species and communities. Dolphins are showing signs of serious illness, coral reefs show widespread stress, life-cycles of many micro-organisms have been interrupted, and an important part of the food chain, phytoplankton have been reduced. Migratory birds are displaying long-term effects, and oxygen levels in Gulf waters are still impacted. There is continued psychological and economical impacts to coastal communities.
CBS News, Fox News, and NPR all reported that researchers were finding lesions in 50-60 percent of the fish in 2012!
Things aren’t any better in Alaska. The 20th anniversary status report from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council lists only 10 of the 31 injured resources and services they monitor are “recovered.” Populations of Pacific herring are listed as “not recovering” nor is the seabird pigeon guillemots. The herring fishery in Alaska’s Prince William Sound collapsed and has not yet recovered. It is recognized that chronic exposure of fish eggs to oil concentrations as low as a few parts per billion lead indirectly to higher mortality. (Scientific American, 2003). “National Geographic News” reports that in 2009, 20 years after the spill, huge quantities of oil still coat Alaska’s shores with a toxic glaze. They state that more than 21,000 gallons of crude oil remain and the oil has been detected as far as 450 miles away.
The belief that the Harbor will be able to recover from any type of spill is based on mistaken information. We have been told that the Harbor is particularly difficult to contain a spill. The Port thinks that by storing 97 million gallons of crude oil on our shores, the state will have to provide protection. Really? And who is going to pay for that? And who will pay in lost jobs, destruction of historical fishing grounds, fouled beaches and dead birds when the spill happens? For a handful of jobs we’re supposed to sacrifice our entire ecosystem and the economies that depend on it?
The economy of the Harbor does need to be improved, but it seems to many of us that we can find a better way.