State, feds won’t pursue $92M more in ’89 Exxon Valdez spill

The state and federal governments have decided not to pursue $92 million in additional damages from Exxon Mobil Corp.

Exxon Valdez tanker aground. Off-loading of remaining oil in progress. Photo courtesy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.
Exxon Valdez tanker aground. Off-loading of remaining oil in progress. Photo courtesy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

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The governments say ducks and sea otters have recovered in Alaska’s Prince William Sound following a devastating oil spill more than two decades ago.

The state filed its final status report late Wednesday, making it clear Alaska does not plan to file a claim for lingering effects of oil.

Oil industry critic  Professor Rick Steiner says this outcome was surprising. Steiner says of the options available to the plaintiffs, the best would have been an agreement between the governments and Exxon to simply pay the $92 million requested 9 years ago.

He says the plaintiffs also could have taken no action but reserved the right to do so before the statute of limitations runs out on the re-opener clause next June.

“Then the option they selected, which was quite a stunner, was walking away from the claim and closing the case entirely,” Steiner said. “And that, to many of us, is just an unconscionable betrayal in the public’s trust.”

Lawsuits brought against Exxon by the state and federal governments after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill led to a $900 million settlement and a consent decree that resolved claims related to natural-resource damages.

The decree included a clause that would allow the governments to seek additional funds for restoration projects, up to $100 million.

The state’s lead attorney in the case, Steven Mulder, says the state determined those additional funds are not necessary.

“This lays to rest that we’re not going to request the judge to re-open the closed cases to ask Exxon to pay for more restoration projects,” Mulder said.

A hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. today in Anchorage.

Rachel Waldholz covers energy and the environment for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media, KTOO in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Before coming to Anchorage, she spent two years reporting for Raven Radio in Sitka. Rachel studied documentary production at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and her short film, A Confused War won several awards. Her work has appeared on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace, among other outlets.
rwaldholz (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8432 | About Rachel

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