For Immediate Release
Rick Steiner (907) 786-4156; Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337
$100 Million Still Owed From Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
US and Alaska Fail to Collect $92 Million Damage Claim Filed Back in 2006
WASHINGTON - As the 20th anniversary of the massive Exxon Valdez
oil spill dawns tomorrow, the federal and state governments have yet to
collect all that the oil company agreed to pay. A final $92 million claim
for harm to wildlife, habitat and subsistence users filed in 2006 has languished
In 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez spilled over 11 million gallons of crude
oil on the Alaska coast, causing an estimated $15 billion in damages. The 1991
settlement following the guilty plea by Exxon Corporation (now ExxonMobil)
provided for $900 million in payments, a $25 million criminal fine and $100
million in restitution. The plea agreement also called for added payment of
up to $100 million for unanticipated damages unknown at the time of the settlement.
On August 31, 2006, the federal and state governments jointly submitted a demand
for ExxonMobil to pay $92 million, together with a restoration plan.
After submission of what was called the "reopener" claim, ExxonMobil
had 90 days to pay or respond. Yet the claim sat unsatisfied, as neither the
Bush nor the Palin administrations took any action to collect.
Today, Professor Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor who has intensively
monitored conservation issues relating to the spill, and Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER) sent a letter to both U.S. Attorney General
Eric Holder and Alaska Acting Attorney General Richard Svobodny asking them
to act immediately to collect the overdue claim.
According to the joint-federal restoration plan presented in 2006, the funds
would be used to address -
- Presence of substantial subsurface pockets of oil;
- Effects of continuing toxicity of oil still in the environment; and
- Higher than expected wildlife mortality, especially among predator
species, and the resulting impacts on subsistence hunters and fishers.
"The coastal ecosystem injured by the Exxon Valdez spill is still a long
way from full recovery," said Professor Steiner. "The governments
should bring Exxon into court to collect this last bit of compensation for their
environmental recklessness, and the governments should be allowed to use the
money in the highest and best interest of ecological recovery - whatever
that may be."
For the Obama administration, this may be an early opportunity to signal its
approach to environmental enforcement. In addition, once secured these funds
would be almost immediately translated into new environmental restoration jobs.
"It is mystifying that our government has not lifted a finger in the
past three years to collect millions that one of the biggest polluters in history
has agreed to pay," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "At
this moment, the $92 million payment would be a corporate-financed stimulus
package, giving taxpayers a welcome break."
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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.