Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation Records Appraisal and Processing Project

  • Welcome
  • About the Project
  • Oversight Task Force
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Other Exxon Resources

To Patrons Who Wish to Use Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Records at the Alaska State Archives:

(August 15, 2013)

speaker clipart Listen to Larry Hibpshman talk about the Exxon Valdez Litigation Project (MP3)

Exxon San Francisco

ASL-P313-08-11 Exxon Valdez oil is transferred to Exxon San Francisco. U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District, Photograph Collection [ASL-PCA-313] from the Alaska State Library Historical Collections

Welcome. Before you delve into Alaska State Archives Exxon Valdez collections, here are a few things to consider:

What Exxon Valdez records does the Alaska State Archives have?

The Alaska State Archives is the official depository for permanent records and files created by the agencies of Alaska’s Governments (District, 1884-1912; Territory 1912-1959 and State 1959-present). Our collections include only government records. We have two kinds of Exxon Valdez records, both of which may support your research:

  1. Record Group 91, Department of Law Civil Division, series 708 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation Records, 1969-1993.
  2. Records produced by State agencies that relate to the Exxon Valdez spill, but which are nonlitigatory in nature.

Inclusive lists of both of these types are listed at the end of this document. Alaska State Archives’ Exxon Valdez holdings consist of most media types including paper text, audio-visual, photographic, cartographic and electronic materials. If you want to review file unit information for any of these series please contact us; http://archives.alaska.gov/, (907) 465-2270.

Reference Access:

Clean up of Quayle Beach

RG348 SR612 AS17957 Slide #0224. Workers clean other side of Quayle Beach on Smith Island. August 1989.

The Alaska State Archives is open to the public for research 10:00 am through 4:15 pm, Monday through Friday, except for State and Federal Holidays. We welcome patrons via email, telephone, fax, mail and in person. Appoints aren’t required, but when working with a collection as large as the Exxon Valdez records, we suggest you contact us by email or phone first to discuss your research and the specifics of what you are looking for.

Series 708:

Exxon Oil Spill Study Site

The Alaska Department of Law created Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation records during nearly five year of court proceedings that resulted from the spill. Records represent the Department of Law Environmental Section’s management of the State’s interests during the litigation process. Most were generated during discovery by the State’s contract discovery attorney firm, Preston, Thorgrimson, Shidler, Gates & Ellis.

Discovery is a litigation phase in which both parties to a case identify all germane records and other evidence in their possession. Parties then exchange inventories of all evidence and review portions of opponent evidence that each party believes is significant to it. Although series 708 records’ primary function was to document the discovery process, contents also involve a wide variety of issues and activities relating to spill response and remediation.

Non-litigation Records:

All Alaska State Government Agencies were affected in some way by the oil spill and subsequent court cases. Several State agencies were deeply involved in the response and created numerous subject and project files, which later came into State Archives’ custody. The four most important agencies involved in spill response were the Office of the Governor and the Departments of Environmental Conservation, Fish & Game, and Natural Resources. A few Executive and Legislative Branch commissions were created to review aspects of the spill. Records these organizations created are also available.

Access Restrictions; judicial and statutory:

Steve Cooper and Dennis Kelso

RG348 SR612 AS17958 Slide #1063 Governor Steve Cowper and ADEC Commissioner Dennis Kelso tour spill impacted beaches prior to the one-year anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

In all cases relating to confidential records, the Alaska State Archives recognizes and follows State Law and court mandates. Portions of our holdings currently are closed to public access. The litigation process necessarily requires occasional secrecy and in series 708 there are three primary types of litigatory restrictions:

  • Attorney-client privilege
  • Attorney work product
  • Judicial protective order

In most, but not all cases, restricted items were segregated to sealed envelopes and you will be able to review all but these envelopes. In some cases however, a subseries is restricted in its entirety, either because restricted items were not segregated, or because all contents are restricted.

The Alaska Department of Law is responsible for this area of government. Therefore in all cases relating to litigation records (such as series 708), we refer patrons to the Department of Law first, prior to access, and follow procedure the Department of Law prescribes.

Most non litigatory series don’t include privileged or judicially protected records but there occasionally are restrictions based on State or Federal statute, and issues of personal or proprietary privacy. Most Alaska State Archives executive branch records relating to Exxon Valdez are open for research. Materials marked confidential, however will not be available to your review. You will also be asked to sign a Researcher Agreement (see sample below) promising not to reveal sensitive personal information.

Other Exxon Valdez Litigation Records:

The Department of Law generated about 6,000 cubic foot boxes of Exxon Valdez litigation records. During the State Archives Exxon Valdez Litigation Records Project (October 2011-September 2013), project staff evaluated about 3,500 boxes located in Juneau. Project staff selected 918 boxes of permanent records, and those became series 708A through 708V.

Project staff also determined that about 2,500 boxes of records don’t merit permanent archival retention. Primarily this material consists of multiple copies of discovery exchanges. In the case of defendant discovery, most of these records are proprietary business records over which the Alaska State Archives has no authority to provide public access. As of this writing (August 2013), these records await final disposal authority.

Other Available Exxon Valdez Records:

You’re welcome to use Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council records at the State Archives. However, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s own records are located at the Alaska Resources Library and Information Services (ARLIS) in Anchorage. The Trustee Council’s records are a rich research resource. We suggest contacting Carrie Holba, ARLIS’s Exxon Valdez Librarian, for assistance: http://www.arlis.org/tag/exxon-valdez/.

For Exxon’s part of the story, contact the ExxonMobil Historical Collection Archivist at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, (512) 495-4532, http://www.cah.utexas.edu/about/staff_directory.php

Please see the list of other resources elsewhere in this webpage, such as the "Other Exxon Resources" tab.

Natural Resource Damage Records (NRDA):

aerial of City of Valdez in winter

RG348 SR612 AS17958 Slide #2013. Aerial of City of Valdez in winter. November 1989.

Most Exxon Valdez Oil Spill NRDA studies are available in libraries at various locations throughout the world. You can search them by title on WorldCat. The Alaska State Library Historical Collections has an inclusive set on microfiche, (907) 465-2925, http://library.alaska.gov/hist/hist.html.

We hope this information is helpful to you and we’re looking forward to your visit.

Sincerely,

Alaska State Archives Staff
141 Willoughby Avenue
PO Box 110525
Juneau, AK99811-0525
907-465-2241(v); 465-2465(f)
archives@alaska.gov
http://archives.alaska.gov/valdezProject.html

Addendo

Alaska State Archives Exxon Valdez Related Series & Sub Series Holdings Record Group 91, Department of Law Civil Division, series 708 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation Records, 1969-1993 includes subseries:

RG348 SR612 AS17959 Slide #0981 Dennis Kelso, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, talks with a member of the Oil Spill Task Force during tour of facility. Dayville Incineration Site, Valdez.

  • 708A Deposition Corrections
  • 708B Discovery Attorney administrative file
  • 708C DEC Response Center Documents: Public Information Officer
  • 708D Deposition Exhibits: Photocopy
  • 708E Deposition Exhibits: Photocopy Protective Order Documents
  • 708F Deposition Transcripts
  • 708G Chronological Set of Newspaper Articles
  • 708H State Production at Deposition
  • 708I Original Agency Documents: Copies; Inventoried - Not Produced
  • 708J Original Agency Documents: Some Original ACE
  • 708K Private Plaintiff Production Documents
  • 708L Pleading Binders
  • 708M State Production Documents - Copies of Unique Items
  • 708N State Production Microfilm copy
  • 708O Discovery Team documentation file
  • 708P Other Transcripts: Chenega Bay, Glacier Bay and NTSB
  • 708Q Field Notes Library
  • 708R Valdez Joint Communication Center marine communications
  • 708S State Production Original ACE Numbers
  • 708T State Production Microfilm, Original ACE Stickers (Paper)
  • 708U Third-Party Production Documents
  • 708V Exxon Oil Spill Project Maps
  • (There are no subseries 708W, 708X or 708Y.)
  • 708Z Records Lacking Permanent Value Production Microfilm, Original ACE Stickers

MINISIS, the State Archives electronic catalog, lists 20 other items produced by State agencies; nonlitigatory series, subseries and files, as follows:

  • 369 Commissioner of Labor Program administration, special projects files
  • 478 House Special Committee on the Exxon Valdez Claims Settlement, 1991-1992
  • 488 Senate Special Committee on Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Claims Settlement, 1991-1992
  • 537 Commissioner of Fish and Game subject files Exxon Valdez Oil Spill documents, 1987-1991
  • 553 Division of Habitat and Restoration subject files Boxes AS 21353-AS 21335
  • 562 Commissioner of Environmental Conservation subject files, AS 17128-AS 17138, 1989-1990
  • 562 “National Governors Association -- mostly Exxon Valdez” AS 22802, 1993
  • 611 Office of Management and Budget subject files
  • 612 Governor’s Press Secretary Exxon Valdez Oil Spill slides and videotapes
  • 621 Division of Habitat & Restoration subject files Exxon Valdez oil spill files
  • 660 Governor’s Special Project files Exxon Valdez Files of Mike Nizich, March-May 1989
  • 1290 Division of Habitat and Restoration Exxon Valdez oil spill restoration project files, 1994-1998
  • 1291 Division of Habitat and Restoration Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) Minutes
  • 1313 Governor’s Washington D.C. Field Office project files; Box AS 8686, 1989-1992
  • 1336 Commissioner of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Exxon Valdez, 1989-1990
  • 1433 Division of Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR) Industry contingent plans (IPP), 1974-1986
  • 1433 Division of Spill Prevention and Response (SPAR) Exxon Valdez oil spill shoreline assessment survey data and clean-up history, 1989-1993
  • 1520 Citizens Oversight Council on Oil and Other Hazardous Substances; The Wreck of the Exxon Valdez, 1989-1991
  • 1729 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Commission records, 1989-1990 (investigative commission appointed by Governor Cowper)
  • 1800 Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Public Information file, 1989-2006

researcher agreement
Basil Williams, ASA intern

Alaska State Archives patron Basil Williams
reviews Exxon Valdez Litigation files.
August 21, 2013. Photo by Chris Hieb

accompanying photo

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

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.

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.

accompanying photo

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

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.

accompanying photo

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

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.

Exxon Valdez Litigation Documents Project Slideshow SchoolTube video or (PDF)

Oversight Task Force Members

member photo

Patience Andersen Faulkner,
Member Eyak Tribal Council
Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council & Cordova District Fishermen United

Long lasting environmental and emotional impacts mean that Prince William Sound Spill History never goes away. Patience worked at the Fishermen’s Claims Office in Cordova processing nearly all 53 EVOS claims categories for class attorneys and coordinated direct action attorneys. She interviewed many claimants and collected interview support documents. She continued to assist on a pro bono basis and she’s still in contact with many claimants. She also serves on the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council and several public interest organizations.

member photo

Kurt Fredriksson,
Former Commissioner Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

Kurt has more than30 years resource and environmental regulation experience across multiple Alaskan venues. He established the Governor’s temporary Cordova Office during the State’s first Exxon Valdez Oil Spill response season and was an Oil Spill Trustee Council member. As Deputy Director and Director of the Spill Prevention and Response Division, 1990-1998 he collaborated with the Legislature, industry, regional citizen groups, federal agencies and other public stakeholders to develop the nation’s most advanced spill prevention, preparedness and response network. As Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, 1998-2004 and Commissioner, 2004-2006, he was Alaska’s primary spokesperson on environmental quality issues and approved state environmental quality standards.

member photo

Andrew Goldstein,
Curator of Collections & Exhibitions Valdez Museum & Historical Archives

Valdez, like all Southcentral Alaska communities, has a unique story to tell about how it was affected by the Spill. The Valdez Museum’s Archives has about 15,000 documents, photographs and other items that narrate this emotional story. Andrew is familiar with the complex issues and well acquainted with the museum’s archives collection and the need to identify and prioritize EVOS collections. For 3 years he researched and then installed the Museum’s May 2011 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Exhibit. He has connections to professionals, scholars, stakeholders, and community members from all perspectives.

member photo

Barbara Hendricksen,
Lead State Paralegal Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation

Barbara filled an essential role on the State’s Litigation Team. She was involved in every aspect of collecting documents from state custodians, how they were screened for privilege and production to defendants and private plaintiffs. She helped develop systems to identify deposition document sets and she knows who to contact for answers about particular document sets. Her work remains one of the most professionally exciting and gratifying experiences of her paralegal career.

member photo

Carrie Holba,
Librarian Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees Council Alaska Resources & Information Services

Carrie has been the Trustee Council's Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Collection manager and librarian since 1991. She’s worked at length with the documents and reports at the Trustee Council office, including the Council's Official Record, and the extensive oil spill collection housed at ARLIS. For 20 years, Carrie has provided reference assistance to Alaskans and people around the world who are researching the spill from diverse perspectives.

member photo

Jennifer Schorr,
Assistant Attorney General Alaska Department of Law Environmental Section

Jen Schorr is an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alaska in the Environmental Section. She serves as the Alternate Trustee for the Alaska Department of Law on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, and also served as the Interim Deputy Executive Director for the Trustee Council from 2008-2010. Jen attended law school at the University of Washington, where she also attended the School of Marine Affairs and earned a Master of Marine Affairs. Prior to moving to Anchorage in 2008, Jen was an environmental lawyer at the Seattle law firm Perkins Coie.

member photo

Craig Tillery,
Lead State of Alaska Attorney Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Litigation

Craig led management of state public document issues for ten years and brings detailed knowledge to the task force; he knows oil spill legal issues, the legal significance of particular documents and the implications of preservation orders. He’s familiar with spill history and most players from a first person perspective. He directed Exxon Valdez Oil Spill litigation and restoration literally from day one. Realizing that mastering the massive volume of litigation and natural resource damage assessment documents was key to mastering the litigation process, Craig led efforts to organize the litigation generated documents. Craig served on the State’s team who negotiated the 1991 state and federal civil claims settlement that laid the foundation for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s marine research and restoration efforts. As the Attorney General’s Trustee through 2010, and in a crucial de-facto Council advisory role, he helped decide the uses for the $900,000,000 settlement funds.

Others closely associated with the spill and litigation will provide advice and information.

Project Staff

member photo

Larry Hibpshman, Project Director

Larry grew up in Alaska and is a long time Alaska State Archives employee. He attended Alaska Methodist University, among other schools and has a Master’s Degree in American Studies. He’ll be responsible for the project’s general administrative management and Task Force activities. He’ll also be involved in hands-on review, appraisal, weeding, disposal, arrangement, description and public outreach.

member photo

Wendy Sparkman, Project Archivist

Wendy has lived in many places but grew up primarily in the Fairbanks and Chugiak-Eagle River areas. She received her Master of Library Science Degree from Florida State University. She has previously worked for the Florida State University Library and the Chugiak-Eagle River Library. Wendy works mostly on day-to-day arrangement and description, but also takes on additional activities as needed.

Project staff hopes others, particularly those in the Oil Spill Region will become involved, and we welcome emails and telephone calls. For information or to comment contact:

Larry Hibpshman, Project Director
141 Willoughby Avenue
PO Box 110525
Juneau, AK 99811-0525
Phone: 907.465.2241 Fax:907.465.2465
Email: larry.hibpshman@alaska.gov
http://archives.alaska.gov

Q: Why dispose of any of the material? Why not keep all of it?
A:
There are several reasons:

  1. It costs a great deal of money to store records. So far the State of Alaska has spent over a million dollars just storing about 10,000 cubic feet of Exxon Valdez Litigation files. By appraising the records and eliminating what isn’t really needed the project will save the State ~ and the tax payers ~ about $37,000 per year.
  2. There is a lot of duplication. Litigants on both sides photocopied and microfilmed records and files repeatedly to assure immediate availability while the case was prosecuted. Many files are identical except that one is the original and the other a temporary backup copy. By eliminating duplicate files we can eliminate a lot of shelf space costs.
  3. Not everything is needed to document the spill and its effects. Even when files aren’t actually duplicate copies there is a lot of overlap in content among several dozen file sets. Eliminating the least accessible and/or least descriptive allows us to provide better access to those who want to use the records.
  4. It is standard records management practice to appraise records, determine the ultimate value of files and establish the best available retention policies, procedures and care. As the records are currently unorganized it is difficult to establish what these are, not to mention assist public access.

accompanying photo
Alaska State Archives Record Group 1 Office of the Governor; series 801Exxon Valdez oil spill records

Q: How will you decide what to keep and what to toss?
A:
We’ll do this in several ways. Since there is a lot of duplication our first goal is to identify it, and decide what can be disposed. Much of the duplicate material is located in Juneau so we’ll start there.
But even among ‘unique’ files there may be some that don’t really need to be in the archives. Project staff will analyze various file types, apply archival and records management theory and discuss exceptions and State Archives retention procedures.
We’ll also query our Task Force of experts about issues and conditions that influence relative value of particular files and documents.
Finally we’re anxious that Alaskans, especially those who live in areas directly affected by the spill, be involved. We welcome comments and suggestions from anyone familiar with the spill and its records.

Q: Why do the records need to be reorganized?
A:
Actually reorganization is a misnomer. The records don’t need to be reorganized ~ we need to re-establish their original order.
The litigation process was long and the records are complex. Since the records were created they’ve been scattered geographically and have become disarranged. The primary organizational goals are to determine and restore the original arrangement and to describe it so that people can use the records.
We also must provide minimum necessary space. Most cubic foot boxes in storage are less than completely full, and some contain portions of several different file sets. If we draw related files together and eliminate unneeded ones we can store the records compactly.

Q: How will the records be reorganized?
A:
Professional Archives are guided by two organizing principles:

  1. Provenance: Records should be arranged to reflect their organization of origin
  2. Original Order: Records should be retain their original organizational structure

Doing this assures content and context aren’t lost and prompt retrieval possible.

accompanying photo
Alaska State Archives Record Group 1 Office of the Governor; series 801Exxon Valdez oil spill records

Q: Will all of the records be made available to the public, and if all records will not be available, why?
A:
Most but not all will be available. Some are protected from disclosure by attorney client privilege and attorney work product sanctions, or were sealed by court protective order. The State Archives must respect these serious legal requirements.
But the good news is that we estimate perhaps only 2% of all files are restricted, and state litigation discovery staff removed and placed these files in sealed envelopes. Meanwhile, one of the Task Force’s jobs will be to suggest long term policies that eventually allow the State Archives to open restricted records to public review.

Q: Why haven’t the records been available to the public for the last 18 years?
A:
They have been available to a somewhat limited extent.
State records law requires public access to public resources if they aren’t restricted by law or judicial protection. However, until records become noncurrent they are kept in semi-current storage under the control of the creating agency. Until then the Department of Law (in this case) must approve access requests. This creates a burden for Department of Law personnel whose primary responsibilities are directed elsewhere. Once the records become noncurrent the State Archives reference staff ~ people whose primary job is to provide access ~ will provide routine access.

Q: Can I help?
A:
Yes. We would love to hear from you. Please communicate with us as described above. Also let others know about the project.

Q: Will some of the records be made available to view online?
A:
Possibly. As we review what’s available we may choose selected items to show electronically. A project to scan and exhibit all records electronically would be too expensive and difficult to carry out given currently available technology.

Q: Whatever happened to the tanker vessel Exxon Valdez?
A:
Soon after the disaster Exxon towed it to San Diego and repaired its damage. The company renamed the vessel Exxon Mediterranean and put it to work in Europe. Exxon later transferred the tanker to a subsidiary, River Maritime Inc. renamed it SeaRiver Mediterranean, later shortened to S/R Mediterranean. The vessel's single-hull design prevented return to North American and European waters, so it was redeployed to Asia and the Middle East. In 2008 ExxonMobil sold the ship. The new owner refitted it as Dong Fang Ocean, an ore carrier. In November 2010 it collided with another cargo ship, was towed to China and again renamed Oriental Nicety. In March 2012 the ship was sold as scrap for $16 million to an Indian firm.
Based on a March 20, 2012 Pennlive.com report. (Mechanicsburg PA Patriot-News; McClatchy/Tribune-MCT Information Services).

Page last updated 12/18/2014