A lot has changed for the energy industry since the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in 1989 and began spilling oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound. The outcry over images of oil-soaked wildlife and a once-pristine shoreline dirtied by crude ushered in greater scrutiny of oil operations and increased interest in research on how to clean up oil spills.
On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine water. At the time, it was the single biggest spill in U.S. history. In a series of stories, NPR is examining the lasting social and economic impacts of the disaster, as well as the policy, regulation and scientific research that came out of it.
It's a blustery, snowy March day when Michelle Hahn O'Leary offers a tour of Cordova, Alaska, situated on the eastern shore of Prince William Sound.
It's been 25 years since the Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Alaska, spilling millions of gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.
The impact on wildlife was devastating. Cleanup crews poured into the nearby port town, also called Valdez, where an animal rescue center was set up.
"The chaos is incredibly difficult to describe or even imagine," says LJ Evans, a local resident who volunteered to help. "Somebody came back with the first bird — the reporters were so frantic, somebody got in a fight trying to take a picture of this poor little oiled bird."
On a frigid day at Hatcher Pass, north of Anchorage, Alaska, cross-country skier Holly Brooks glides up to a start line.
This race is just a practice with her Alaska Pacific University teammates. It's a chance for Brooks to test her skills before heading to Europe for the busy World Cup season, and then to Sochi in February for the Winter Olympics. Brooks is now a seasoned member of the U.S. Ski Team, but a little more than four years ago, she was on the sidelines.