Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pressure Continues to Reopen Exxon Valdez Litigation

An Alaska legislator who participated as a volunteer in the cleanup of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster has filed a House Joint Resolution in support of residents’ rights under the disputed re-opener provision of the settlement.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, said in a letter on Dec. 8 to Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards that pursuit of the re-opener benefits is warranted.

Josephson’s letter and filing of the resolution come in the wake of a recent federal court decision in Anchorage by District Court Judge H. Russel Holland against efforts to reopen the Exxon Valdez oil spill case.

Holland’s ruling came in the wake of decisions by attorneys for the federal and state of Alaska governments not to pursue millions of dollars for damages that were not identified at the time of the initial settlement.

Holland said that the case was not reopened for purposes of evaluating a settlement nor for further litigation because there was nothing for the court to evaluate, with or without public input. “There is no basis for the court to reject the governments’ report appraising the court of their decision to withdraw their reopener demand,” the judge wrote in his decision.

“Many people in the oil spill region in Alaska feel it is a profound betrayal of public trust for the (federal and state) governments to abandon this long-awaited claim altogether, as well as for the court to abandon its earlier commitment to solicit public comment,” said marine conservation biologist Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska professor who has followed the case since the spill.

“Many see this as a spectacular failure of government to hold Exxon accountable for the ongoing environmental harm caused by the 1989 spill.” Steiner said.

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