Cantwell Warns of Long-Term Harm to Small Businesses Impacted by Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe

Senator cites hard-learned lessons of Exxon Valdez, urges streamlining process to reimburse small businesses

WASHINGTON, DC – Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) warned of the long-term economic consequences that could result if cleanup and handling of damage claims from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are drawn-out over decades. At a Small Business Committee hearing examining the impact of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, Cantwell reflected on the lessons learned from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Claims in that case were litigated over decades and were only finally resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly 20 years after the spill.
“This ecological disaster jeopardizes our oceans and coastal environment, and just as important, it jeopardizes the economies of those counties and countless small businesses that depend on them,” Senator Maria Cantwell said. “Moving forward, we need to make sure we heed the hard-learned lessons of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.”
Cantwell cited lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez:
  • A major oil spill’s devastation lasts for decades after most of the oil is gone. Over twenty years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Pacific herring fishery still shows no sign of recovery.
  • An improperly executed cleanup can be as harmful as the original spill, causing long-term health problems for cleanup workers and unanticipated environmental harm.
  • Many of the worst impacts for citizens and small businesses resulted from court battles which lasted years and tore entire communities apart.
“We need to move forward on answers that will help these communities, and I hope that we can cut to the chase in making sure these small businesses get compensated,” Cantwell said at the hearing
According to a 2009 report, our nation’s ocean economy directly supports 2.3 million jobs and contributes $138 billion to our gross domestic product. Further, coastal counties contribute 50 million jobs and $5.7 trillion to the United States’ economy. Four years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Cantwell said, local communities and businesses in Alaska became so frustrated with Exxon and the federal government over the long-term impacts that they actually formed a blockade at the Valdez Narrows.
“Sixty boats formed a wall stopping oil tanker traffic for two days until they got response. So we don’t want to get to that level of frustration, and so I hope we can get answers for the people of the Gulf,” Cantwell said.
Cantwell is chair of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over matters that impact our oceans, coasts and climate, and she also chairs the Energy Subcommittee.
High quality audio and video of Senator Cantwell’s remarks today at the hearing available upon request.