Judge won't force Exxon to pay for more Valdez spill cleanup

The Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 8, 2011 

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland ruled Monday against a request that he force Exxon Mobil Corp. to pay for the cleanup of oil left on the Prince William Sound shoreline from the 1989 tanker Valdez spill.

The request came from former University of Alaska marine science professor Rick Steiner, who filed a court motion to try and force resolution of the case. Steiner said he was frustrated because the state and federal governments filed a $92 million claim against Exxon in 2006 but never tried to collect the money.

Government lawyers said they're waiting for studies on the remaining oil and the effectiveness of cleanup techniques before pursuing the claim against Exxon. The oil company, meanwhile, says it doesn't have any obligation to pay.

Judge Holland last week expressed dissatisfaction with how long the case is taking, saying "it really is time to put this whole thing to bed." Holland also said in his Monday ruling that there's a public perception it's taken far too long.

But the judge concluded that doesn't justify him forcing a resolution at this point.

"Were the court to endeavor to require the parties to take action before they are prepared to do so because of its own perceptions or because of public pressure, the result could prejudice some party, and there is no way of knowing in advance who might suffer," Holland wrote. "The court urges the Governments and their trustees to proceed with all possible speed to complete studies that are underway and any necessary evaluation which they may require."

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