Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lingering Questions on Exxon Valdez

A marine conservation expert based in Anchorage says that more than 20 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, unexpected discovery of lingering oil raises environmental questions requiring additional study and restoration.

Rick Steiner made his commends in court filing posted online on Oct. 10 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Exxon is seeking a federal court to free the company from any further financial responsibility for the 1989 spill.

Twenty years ago, Exxon, the state of Alaska and the US Department of Justice reached a $1 billion settlement that called for an added payment of up to $100 million for environmental injuries unknown at the time of the settlement. In August 2006, the federal and state governments submitted a demand for Exxon Mobil to pay $92 million to implement a restoration plan for the unanticipated eco-damage. ExxonMobil has never paid that money.

Steiner, a PEER board member and now retired University of Alaska professor, is participating in the case. He filed a lengthy supplemental submission in the form of an amicus motion on Oct. 11 in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Steiner said the coastal ecosystem injured by the Exxon Valdez spill is still a long way from full recovery.

For the past two years, Steiner and PEER have pressed the federal and state governments to move forward in collecting the $92 million. The Justice Department maintained that it is awaiting the outcome of further studies.

Steiner said the reopener for unknown injury provision is intended to address unanticipated, long-term injuries, precisely as government-commissioner scientific studies have identified, but that the restoration cannot take place with out the funding.

ExxonMobil contends that it has paid for cleanup under terms of the settlement and that any lingering oil is cleanup not restoration environed by the reopener claim.

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