Exxon Valdez update

There’s a new twist in the latest multi-million dollar Exxon Valdez disaster litigation, now set for oral arguments in federal court in Anchorage on Nov. 15.

Federal Judge H. Russel Holland has denied an amicus brief from marine biologist Rick Steiner, who asked the court to order Exxon to pay an additional $92 million for environmental damages still not cleaned up more than 22 years after the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound.

In 1991, Exxon agreed to pay $900 million in damages over the next decade for cleanup costs. Then in 2006, the Justice Department and the state of Alaska filed a claim seeking to have Exxon pay an additional $92 million, given evidence that habitat and species were still impacted by the spill.

Anchorage attorney Doug Serdahely, who is representing Exxon, said he felt Holland denied Steiner’s motion for an amicus brief because he wants to hear only from attorneys for Exxon, the state and federal governments during oral arguments, and feels the government’s position is adequately represented by the government’s lawyers.

Exxon wants the $92 million claim dismissed because it is not appropriate under the consent decree, Serdahely said. Under that decree, the only additional money would be for restoration work, rather than cleanup, he said.

While government attorneys have not pushed for payment, Steiner, who spent 14 years working in Prince William Sound, contends that the court should enforce that 2006 demand for payment.

“The fact is, none of the official parties to the Exxon Valdez case have ever genuinely understood what happened here, or really cared,” Steiner said. “Not Exxon, not the state of Alaska, not the US (federal government), not the court. It’s all been a game to them.

“But the people of Prince Wiliam Sound certainly understood this disaster, and so did the sea otters and harlequin ducks and herring and scoters at Knight Island.”
In the end, said Steiner, the injured environment will continue struggling to recover, without any assistance whatsoever from the very humans who caused the damage in the first place.”