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Valdez Skipper To Begin Sentence

February 17, 1999

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ The former skipper of the Exxon Valdez will finally begin tidying up Anchorage as punishment for his role in one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters.

Joseph Hazelwood will don a reflective vest this summer and join a 10-member city crew that picks up litter along highways and from area parks, Fred Fulgencio, community service supervisor for Anchorage, said Tuesday.

As captain of the Exxon Valdez, Hazelwood ordered the 984-foot tanker to shift position to avoid icebergs in the shipping lanes of Valdez Arm on March 24, 1989.

Hazelwood then went below to his cabin, leaving 3rd Mate Gregory Cousins in control of the vessel. Cousins ran the vessel onto Bligh Reef just after midnight, spilling about 11 million gallons of oil.

Hazelwood was found guilty in 1990 of a misdemeanor count of negligent discharge of oil. A jury acquitted him of felony criminal mischief and two other misdemeanors _ reckless endangerment and operating a vessel while intoxicated.

Judge Karl Johnstone had ordered Hazelwood to perform 1,000 hours of community service and said some of that time should be spent cleaning rocks oiled by the spill.

The sentence remained on hold during eight years of appeals.

Hazelwood’s lawyers had asked that he be allowed to serve his community service in his home state of New York. An Alaska court refused but agreed in November to let Hazelwood serve 200 hours of community service a year over the next five-year period, spending one month each summer tidying up Anchorage through 2004.

Efforts to clean up spilled oil in Prince William Sound ended in the early 1990s. Tens of thousands of birds and marine mammals were killed by the oil that polluted more than a thousand miles of Alaska shoreline.

Hazelwood lost his job with Exxon following the wreck. Since 1992, he has worked as a claims adjuster for a New York City law firm.

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