Interior Secretary Helps End Oil-Tanker Blockage
Aug. 23, 1993
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Tankers were taking on Alaska crude oil again today after fishermen angry about oil-spill recovery efforts ended a weekend blockade at the urging of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
About 160 fishing boats that blocked the Valdez Narrows and kept oil tankers from the trans-Alaska pipeline terminal at Valdez began dispersing Sunday afternoon.
''It's all routine,'' Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Scott Woods said today. ''All the tanker berths are filled. ... All the fishermen have departed the area.''
Babbitt, on a two-week tour of Alaska, met with protesters Sunday. He promised he would urge Exxon Corp. to meet with them on their pending civil lawsuits over the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the worst in U.S. history.
He also promised to urge federal and state trustees who oversee the $900 million criminal spill settlement fund from Exxon to buy more land to protect salmon-spawning streams in Prince William Sound, and to aid local hatcheries.
Fishermen organized the blockade of the narrows to call attention to weak returns of pink salmon to Prince William Sound, which they blame on the effects of the 11 million gallons of oil spilled into prime fishing waters.
The fishermen also wanted to call attention to their demands that civil lawsuits against Exxon be resolved more quickly and to protest what they said was a lack of support from government officials.
A spokesman for the protesters, Jim Gray, said they were satisfied with Babbitt's promises.
''It's great to have an administration make a commitment like this,'' said Rick Steiner, a Cordova-based fisherman and college teacher who joined the protest.
Exxon officials, who had refused to meet with the protesters, issued a statement saying no link has been established between this year's low return of pink salmon and the spill.
British Petroleum and Arco met with the protesters, as did Gov. Walter J. Hickel, who had asked Babbitt to attend.
''I think it's outrageous that an American company with the size and sophistication of the Exxon company doesn't have the will to sit down and talk with a bunch of fishermen on this sound,'' said Babbitt.
At least seven tankers, including two chartered by Exxon, had been kept from the terminal during the blockade Saturday and Sunday.
Marnie Isaacs, a spokeswoman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., said there was no interruption of oil through the pipeline.
The 800-mile pipeline is operated by Anchorage-based Alyeska on behalf of seven oil company owners, including Exxon, and accounts for about one-fourth of domestic crude-oil production.