Natural Resources and Environment:

Adequacy of Preparation and Response Related to Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

T-RCED-89-59: Published: Aug 10, 1989. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1989.

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GAO discussed the oil industry's and federal government's response to a large oil spill in Alaska. GAO found that: (1) an inadequate initial response to the spill resulted from equipment and personnel shortages, inadequate communications, and an ineffective organizational structure; (2) the pipeline terminal operator only assembled equipment and personnel for the most likely accident, which was far less severe in magnitude than what actually occurred; (3) the pipeline terminal operator did not have an adequate response plan for a large spill; (4) the federal leadership role in oil-spill cleanup operations was unclear; (5) Alaska, not the federal government, required the pipeline terminal operator to have a response plan; (6) oil-spill response technology was inadequate; (7) the tanker operator was able to marshal cleanup resources far more efficiently than the Coast Guard could have; and (8) use of measures that could have prevented the spill was limited in the area where the spill occurred. GAO believes that preventive actions are equally as important as improving response capability.

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