Exxon Valdez recovery Plan Still Incomplete

More than 24
years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, a $92 million claim for the
recovery plan for unanticipated harm to fish, wildlife and habitat remains
unpaid, with the next federal court status hearing on the matter set for March
of 2014.

At the latest
court filing of June 28, both the US Justice Department and state of Alaska
cited “unforeseen contracting issues, delays in “sample analysis” and stalled
peer reviews as reasons why they haven’t begun implementing a multi-phase
restoration project outlined back in 2006.

The issue
prompted Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to comment on July
15 that “this stalemate may foreshadow the official neglect to be expected after
spills that will surely occur from drilling in the Arctic Outer Continental

it’s been seven years since the governments demanded this final payment, but
have yet to collect a dime,” said PEER board member Rick Steiner, a retired University
of Alaska marine professor who tried to intervene in the case to break the
logjam. “”There is still a significant amount of Exxon Valdez oil in
beaches, it is still toxic, it is still affecting the marine ecosystem, and yet
the government and Exxon remain bickering about what, if anything, to do about
it – pretty inexcusable behavior,” he said.

The $1
billion 1991 settlement with Exxon – now ExxonMobil – called for additional
payment of up to $100 million for environmental damages unknown at the time of
the settlement over the March 24, 1989 disaster.  In 2006, the federal and state governments
jointly submitted a demand that ExxonMobil pay $92 million to fund recovery for
the long term natural resources damages. Yet seven years later the governments
are still waiting for long overdue scientific studies before collecting that
$92 million, PEER said.

PEER earlier today took the nation’s federal pipeline safety agency to task for
failing to conduct “a single surprise exercise for more than eight years to
determine whether an operator can executive emergency response plans.”

Nor, said
PEER, does the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have a
ready account of which emergency response plans it has approved, rejected or

guidelines call for up to 20 unannounced exercises annually to demonstrate an
operator’s ability to respond to a worst case discharge spill event.