Alaska Senate Resolution Urges Additional Damages in Exxon Valdez Disaster

A resolution introduced in the Alaska Senate urges the state and federal government to compel ExxonMobil Corp to honor its commitment to pay additional damages in a 1989 oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound.

Senate Joint Resolution 25 was introduced Feb. 18 by Sen. Berta Gardner, D- Anchorage, and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SJR 25 urges the Alaska Department of Law and the federal Justice Department to file a motion in the U.S. District Court to compel ExxonMobile to honor a commitment to pay additional damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill under the “reopener for unknown injury” provision of the 1991 agreement and consent degree, and to collect the full demand for payment the state and federal government submitted to ExxonMobil in August 2006.
The lengthy resolution also urges the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council to initiate subsurface lingering oil restoration work.

Rick Steiner, a conservation biologist who was a University of Alaska marine advisor for Prince William Sound at the time of the spill, said many Alaskans are profoundly disappointed in Exxon for not living up to its commitment made in the 1991 settlement, and not paying the government claim made in September 2006 for an additional $92 million, plus about $35 million in interest since then. “Every day the governments delay taking action to collect this claim and remediate this lingering Exxon Valdez oil is another day that nearshore vertebrates – sea otters, birds fish—are exposed to toxic Exxon Valdez crude oil,” Steiner said.

Steiner has filed several court motions since 2010 asking the court to order Exxon to pay the government claims, but the court said it can’t and won’t intervene until the parties place a motion before the court to resolve the claim.

The lengthy resolution notes that state and federal studies have confirmed that a substantial amount of oil from the spill remains on beaches in substrates, that the oil is “nearly as toxic as it was the first few weeks after the spill,” that “the remaining oil will take decades and possibly centuries to disappear entirely,” and that enzyme markers in birds, fish and mammals in the spill region “indicate a continuing exposure to oil.”