A powerful Exxon Valdez op-ed from a First Nations campaigner

by Jason Schwartz

March 24, 2014

Kiera-Dawn Kolson is a campaigner for Greenpeace in the Arctic. She is also a member of the Dene Nation, which calls among its homeland some of the areas affected by the Exxon Valdez spill. The spill might have been 25 years ago, but she, her community, and the land and water they make their lives on are still dealing with it daily.

In this op-ed, Kiera-Dawn looks at the recent draft plan by the Arctic Council a group originally convened to, in part, determine a path for sustainable development in the Arctic to protect against the repeat of disasters like Exxon Valdez.

The problem is, the Arctic Council’s plan won’t prevent new disasters. It wouldn’t have even prevented Exxon Valdez. Kiera-Dawn puts it more eloquently that we can even try to:

“Despite being the first legally-binding agreement of its kind, it fails to outline any essential response equipment, methods for capping wells, or cleaning up oiled habitat and wildlife.

Instead it relies on vague statements that Arctic nations should ensure they try and take appropriate steps within available resources without even minimum requirements, leaving the door wide open for affected governments to delay and defer responsibility to execute cleanup efforts.

The bulk of the damage inflicted by the Exxon Valdez occurred in the first few days after the disaster. Experts tell us that unless containment and recovery equipment get on scene within the first three days, the oil will spread beyond any possibility of control.

Nothing in the councils agreement ensures this rapid response. And shockingly, it has no provisions to hold companies liable for the full costs and damages of a spill.

And its no wonder, when you dive a bit deeper and look at who actually wrote this document…”

Check out the rest of Kiera-Dawn’s op-ed here at Nunatsiaq Online.

Jason Schwartz

By Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based in New York City.

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