The day before Good Friday 1989, Captain Joseph Hazelwood and the crew of the Exxon Valdez
pulled out of the northernmost ice-free port in Alaska, bound for Long Beach, California. Just hours after weighing anchor, though, the mammoth supertanker ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling millions of gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. Cleanup workers labored for months rinsing rocky beaches and swabbing sea otters, but Cleaning Up
is about when things really
got sticky, as waves of slick plaintiff's lawyers washed ashore along with a flotsam of allegations and a jetsam of subpoenas.
Directing the controversial and complex civil action was an ambitious environmental lawyer from Minneapolis, Brian Boru O'Neill. From the beginning, his strategy was to stage a morality play pitting thousands of ordinary Alaskans whose lives and livelihoods depended on Prince William Sound's vast natural resources against a colossal multinational corporation reckless enough to leave 53 million gallons of toxic crude oil in the hands of an alcoholic. But, as Lebedoff writes, no case is that clear-cut; Exxon is no evil empire, and O'Neill foreclosed on small farms before he became a populist crusader. Cleaning Up meticulously reconstructs how one of the worst environmental disasters in history led to the biggest drunk-driving case of all time, but Lebedoff takes the nonfiction legal thriller one step further, personalizing the enormous impersonal devastation, adding flesh and faces to the skeletal frame provided by headlines. --Tim Hogan
From Library Journal
Lebedoff, a Harvard-trained attorney and senior vice president of Voyageur Asset Management, offers an interesting narrative of one of America's most costly and complex civil trials. The case is based on fishermen's claims against Exxon stemming from the Valdez tanker disaster. Lebedoff attempts to present a balanced history of the entire affair?from Captain Hazlewood's childhood to jury selection and the final damage award. However, his grounding is clearly at the plaintiffs' table, focusing in particular on the background and trial strategy of the plaintiffs' chief litigator, Brian O'Neill. Lebedoff's writing is also a bit too pithy, keeping the work from being comprehensive: "Phase Two [of the trial] need not detain the reader for long, as it did so many others. It came and went." He seems to straddle the line?omitting too much to interest other attorneys while boring lay readers with legalistic detail. Recommended only for large history and environmental collections.?Steven Anderson, Baltimore Cty. Circuit Court Law Lib., Towson, Md.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.