For Gulf residents, the BP oil spill has made the problem of unchecked corporate power painfully clear. Exxon Valdez survivor Riki Ott on why this may be the moment to overcome our political divides and take back our democracy.
When the Exxon Valdez oil tanker struck a reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound, Riki Ott was living nearby in the small town of Cordova, working as a commercial salmon "fisherma'am"—one who also had her PhD in marine toxicology with a specialization in oil pollution. She had a unique front row seat to the destruction of a town, an ecosystem, and a way of life—and the losing fight to save them.
Twenty-one years after the Exxon Valdez, the company has only paid out a tenth of the initial assessment of punitive damages. Ott recognizes many of Exxon's tactics in BP's recent behavior: underestimating the size of the spill, downplaying and covering up damages, seeking to cap liability early on.