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WSU Press remembers Exxon Valdez tragedy

BY MADISON CALLAN | Evergreen reporter

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A new book published by WSU Press puts the tragedy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill 25 years ago into a personal perspective.

“Red Light to Starboard: Recalling the Exxon Valdez Disaster” by Angela Day, doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Washington, recounts the incident of the oil spill, tracing the cause and the devastating aftermath.

The spill is considered one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history, right behind the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010.

Day said when she began looking into the story, the case was portrayed as just an accident, but it soon became obvious that a series of regulations had not been followed and precautions had not been taken.

“I stared pulling strings to try and unravel and reveal what really happened,” Day said. “It’s just one of those things when once you start digging, you keep finding things, and they lead you down a trail.”

Day said she began to take interest in the story because of her husband’s personal experience with the tragedy. Bobby Day was a fisherman at the time of the spill who ultimately lost his job because of the environmental detriment surrounding the disaster.

Robert Clark, editor-in-chief of the novel at WSU Press, said Bobby Day gave a great personal perspective to the incident because he was a conflicted character.

“He initially supported the building of Exxon Valdez, although he was a fisherman,” Clark said. “That personal conflict personalizes the story in a way. Other accounts deal with the event, and facts and figures.”

Caryn Lawton, marketing coordinator at WSU Press, said Day took a unique approach to writing the story.

“She didn’t take an environmental approach to it but more of a political science approach,” Lawton said.

Day said she decided to use her husband’s personal experience into the story because she felt that having a personal perspective was meaningful.

“I didn’t want it to seem like it was driving a personal agenda, or too emotional, so I tried really showing what happened,” Day said. “I really thought of myself as the oracle for all of the different actors and for all the events as they played out.”

The 25th anniversary of the oil spill is March 24, and the novel discusses the relevancy the incident still has today.

“It’s kind of an appalling story because so many things that were supposed to be in place and supposed to happen, just didn’t,” Lawton said.

Clark said these environmental situations, the dangers of which are downplayed and the regulations of which are exaggerated, occur again and again.

“The same arguments are being offered over and over again as excuses as to why we should move forward,” Clark said.

Day used resource-extracting processes that are controversial today as an example, such as the debate over the tar-sand pipeline and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

“I think it’s so relevant because more and more we’re digging into resources where we live,” Day said. “We really need to make sure the industry takes the preventative steps it needs to protect people and our natural resources.”

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WSU Press remembers Exxon Valdez tragedy