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Two monumental spills, but have we learned anything from the past?

The oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico has long surpassed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill as the worst in U.S. history.  And more than 20 years have passed since those millions of gallons poured into Prince William Sound, so we must have gained some sort of insight into the problem, right? Not so much.

The Washington Post had a great article today comparing the BP spill to that of Exxon Valdez, finding that despite the remarkable parallels between the two disasters, the lessons from Exxon Valdez have gone unheard.

From that story:

History is repeating, say officials who investigated the Valdez, because the lessons of two decades ago remain unheeded.

“It’s disappointing,” said 84-year-old Walt Parker, chairman of the Alaska Oil Spill Commission, which made dozens of recommendations for preventing a recurrence. “It’s almost as though we had never written the report.”

Marine experts predict that the many panels investigating the Deepwater Horizon blowout — including a presidential commission that began work this week in New Orleans — will produce reports with numerous findings that could have been cut and pasted from the 20-year-old report written by Parker’s commission or another body that examined the Valdez accident. They also fear those findings may have no more impact than the Valdez conclusions have.

It turns out that British Petrolium was a major player in the Valdez spill, as well. So, more than 20 years later, what have they been doing, if not heeding the recommendations from Valdez?

Well, apparently making political donations. The Center for Responsive Politics listed the top all-time donors from 1989-2010. Where does BP fall? Number 111 — of all big time donors.

Maybe it’s time to examine the mistakes of the past before history repeats itself.