Exxon Valdez payment dispute goes back to court

The Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 2, 2011 

Exxon Mobil Corp. says it has paid enough for the 1989 Alaska oil spill, but a judge will hear arguments Friday that the company still owes nearly $100 million to remove oil from the Prince William Sound shoreline.

Federal District Court Judge Russel Holland scheduled arguments in response to a court motion filed by Anchorage oceans activist Rick Steiner. At issue is a $92 million claim filed by the state and federal governments in 2006, arguing the oil is degrading too slowly and continues to harm wildlife. State and federal officials haven't taken further action to collect the money, and Steiner said he's trying to force the issue.

"It's gone on way too long," he said.

Exxon, meanwhile, argued in a court filing last week that it doesn't owe the money at all.

Exxon paid $900 million in restitution as part of a 1991 civil settlement over the Exxon Valdez case. But the settlement also had a clause allowing the state and federal governments to later claim up to $100 million more from Exxon if there were unforeseen damages from the spill. That's the money now under dispute.

The governments filed the claim right before the 2006 deadline for them to do so. "It is clear that populations and habitat within the oil spill area have suffered substantial and unanticipated injuries that are attributable to the Exxon Valdez oil spill," then-Alaska Attorney General David Marquez said at the time.

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