]]]]]]]]]]     "BIGGEST DESTRUCTION SINCE HIROSHIMA"      [[[[[[[[[[[[
                           by Jack Hilton, 
         chairman of Hilton/Sucherman Television Productions

[Title by Sysop, quoting New York bail-setting judge. Original title
was "Valdez: Do-Gooders' Feeding Frenzy," in New York Times Op Ed 
page, May 15, 1989; kindly uploaded by 06856SOLA.]

  Hired by Exxon, I took a television camera to Valdez, Alaska, in
late April.  My mission, almost a month after the messy oil tanker
accident, was to impartially document the scene, the activity and
the clean-up.  I learned that no lens is wide enough to capture the
vastness of Prince William Sound.
  Today, I have two three-person camera crews there.  We are making
a video report for Exxon's annual meeting.  We have made
considerable parts of our footage available to television stations.
  Because the sound can't be photographed in its entirety for a TV
set, Valdez fishermen and tourism boosters are rightfully concerned,
for economic and other good reasons, that most of us in the lower 48
states have gotten a distorted view of their situation.  The key word,
they say, is "perspective."  From what I saw, they make an
unassailable point.
  To be sure, the Exxon Valdez spill was horrible, a costly
international embarrassment for the company, a calamity.  None of my
recent acquaintances in Alaska minimizes it in the slightest.  But if
you think the whole sound is a despoiled pool of goo, let me convey
some Valdez perspectives.
  The sound is about three times larger than Rhode Island.  It
contains an estimated 262 trillion gallons of water, into which more
than 10 million gallons of crude oil were plunked.  That's the
equivalent, they say in Valdez, of a teaspoon of fluid in an
Olympic-sized swimming pool.  The toxicity level rose only momentarily
-- and microscopically.
  As they put it in Valdez, there was no appreciable fish kill:
Herring spawning is O.K. and the salmon are running.  The scenery
remains breathtaking.  Also pristine. (More than 93 percent of the
immense shoreline around the sound was unaffected.)
  They reminded me in Valdez of their gargantuan earthquake and tidal
wave in 1964.  At 8.6 on the Richter scale, it obliterated the little
town (118 died).
  According to Lynn Crystal, a port meteorological officer for the
National Weather Service, all of Valdez's petroleum supplies were
stored on the water's edge in tanks that immediately ruptured.  Into
the sound was deposited approximately one million gallons of heating
oil, diesel fuel and gasoline, which no one tried to clean up.
  Mother Nature did the job.  In short order, there wasn't a visible
trace of pollution.  As the locals explained, that's because the
waters are 100 percent replaced or recycled by natural action like
clockwork every 20 days.  Whatever the gunk, and however it may be
spilled, it is rapidly evaporated or dissipated by powers far greater
than ours.
  Another misconception in the lower 48 should also be dissipated.
It's the view that Exxon people were uncaring and slow to respond
after their tanker hit the reef.  It's perfectly true that I was
retained by the company for TV work, so my comments may not be
universally accepted as credible or impartial.  But I'm also a free
agent, a fair-minded person (I think) and a first-hand witness.
  The allegations are nonsense.  Exxon's chairman, Lawrence Rawl, was
roundly castigated for not having traveled to Valdez until a week
later.  Even I would have advised an immediate trip -- and, in
retrospect, I would have been dead wrong.  Although such a visit would
have better accommodated the worldwide press corps, it would have been
98 percent cosmetic or theatrical and 2 percent substantive and
  Instead, Mr. Rawl stayed on the ground in New York, and on the
phone, where he rounded up 469 vessels, 47 aircraft and at least 4,000
workers, all transported with remarkable dispatch to a dot on the
upper left-hand corner of the Continent.  If you think that's a snap,
try getting to Valdez in a hurry, especially when the ceiling is 100
feet above the water's surface.
  Why Mr. Rawl on those phones?  Why not a lower-level executive?  It
makes for shorter, more productive conversations when the chief
executive officer calls.  Sass and procrastination are near zero on
the other end.
  If Exxon is sparing an expense or withholding a resource, I am
wholly unaware of it.  As invasions go, the personnel and machinery I
saw in Valdez recalled the pictures of Normandy in 1944.  It's also
how I aspire to be "uncared" for in later life.

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