The Times-Picayune traveled to Alaska to see how the town of Cordova is faring two decades after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. The newspaper found a place where grown men still cry about their losses — and 21-year-old oil remains just below the surface of the sound:
Life in this town of 2,200 centers around fishing, as it has for generations. During salmon season, Cordova operates in its own unique rhythm, set by the comings and goings of the crews who spend days or weeks at a time on their boats, and by the perpetual daylight of the Alaskan summer. Main Street, with its family-owned bookstore, family-owned drugstore and century-old hotel, is like a far-northern version of Mayberry.
But mention the word Exxon to anyone here, and the idyll evaporates. Men break down in tears describing what they lost when 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into Prince William Sound in 1989 from a grounded tanker named Exxon Valdez. Twenty-one years later, the herring that once signaled the start of the summer season are largely gone, rendering $300,000 permits worthless. Losses are tallied in divorces, suicides, repossessed boats, depleted college funds, friends who moved away. Cynicism, normally a stranger to small towns, has lodged permanently in people’s craws, receiving a fresh injection two years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court whittled a $2.5 billion punitive-damages judgment against Exxon down to $500 million.
Now, whenever they turn on the television, Cordovans see an eerie replay of what they experienced two decades ago.
Read the story here.

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