Thu, February 14, 2013

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation Records Appraisal and Processing Project

This announcement provided by the Alaska State Archives. The website is available at:
The Exxon Valdez oil spill was a decisive event in world history. It permanently changed the lives of those who live in Alaska; especially people in the spill region. Lawsuits between the State of Alaska, the United States government and Exxon and Alyeska Corporations and other defendants lasted five years. All state and federal cases were eventually combined as a federal case presided over by Judge J. Russell Holland and a state case presided over by Judge Brian Shortell.

Alaska State Archives, Record Group 1,
Office of the Governor, series 801,
Exxon Valdez oil spill records.

The Alaska Department of Law Environmental Litigation Section, led by Barbara Herman and Craig Tillery, tried the case on behalf of the State of Alaska. Over the years the State accumulated a huge case file – testimony, filings, evidence and miscellaneous other material – as many as eight million pages! Storing and managing files was and continues to be a significant cost to the People and State of Alaska.
Final litigation settlement with the State of Alaska came in 1993. (This doesn’t include private plaintiff cases nor the State’s current Reopener Clause litigation, which covers unforeseen additional damages, which were tried and settled separately.) State records policies required the Alaska Department of Law to retain the file for fifteen years. That ended in 2009, and the Alaska State Archives subsequently began to evaluate the records.
But 8,000,000 pages is a lot of material, and portions were spread among several locations in Anchorage and Juneau. Making decisions about these materials was a full time job, only one of many for the State Archives. Fortunately the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC, the National Archives grant agency) provided funds for a special project to address these materials and to hire a project archivist. The State Archives provided one of its permanent staff to act as project director.
The two-year project began October 1, 2011, and will terminate September 30, 2013. It allows archivists to determine what permanent Exxon Valdez litigation files to keep in the State Archives and what files no longer need to be kept. Project staff will sort through, dispose and organize records in Juneau, then move to those located in Anchorage. Records without permanent value will be disposed. Permanent records will be organized and added to the State Archives catalog, then publicized around the world via an online bibliographic catalog.
To assure participation by Alaskans who were most significantly impacted by the spill, project staff has assembled a seven-member Oversight Task Force. The Task Force will meet four times, at about six month intervals, and will review and comment on project activities, and most importantly, will advise project staff on significant issues historians don’t usually deal with – issues like legalities and restrictions, science and technology, community and regional affairs, and how to best keep the public informed and involved.
For more information on the project, contact the Alaska State Archives:; (907) 465-2270.