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From Valdez to BP: A Record-Breaking Spill in Alaska's Pristine Prince William Sound

Across America, oil spills have wrought havoc on our land, wildlife, and the health of our families and communities. March 24 and April 20 represent the anniversaries of the worst oil spills in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez and the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, respectively. Together, these events dumped more than 5.65 million barrels of dirty oil in U.S. waters.

In light of this toxic anniversary, the Sierra Club presents a three-week look at oil companies' poisonous legacy across our nation.

ExxonValdez                           Workers pressure-clean rocks after Exxon Valdez spill. Photo credit: NOAA

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker struck Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef and spilled 750,000 barrels of crude oil, eventually affecting 1,300 miles of shoreline and 11,000 square miles of ocean. Spill-response efforts were severely limited due to the remote location of the spill, accessible only by helicopter or by sea. The largest spill in the U.S. until Deepwater Horizon in 2010, the Exxon Valdez spill killed hundreds of thousands of sea otters, bald eagles, harbor seals, fish, and shorebirds. In a further blow to Alaska, millions in tourism and commercial fishing revenues were lost to the state and those dependent on outdoor industry.

--By Claire Price, Lands Team Intern

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