US, Alaska to drop Exxon-Valdez litigation
The grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker off the coast of Alaska spilled nearly 260,000 bl of crude, an accident that killed thousands of birds, sea otters and seals. ExxonMobil in a settlement in 1991 agreed to pay the government a $125mn penalty and an additional $900mn to support the restoration of wildlife and the cleanup of an estimated 1,500 miles (2,414km) of coastline fouled by the spill.
That settlement included an ability for the government to reopen the suit to pursue additional damages for lingering oil patches from the spill. The US and Alaska followed through on that provision in 2006 and demanded that the company pay a further $92mn to help support a restoration plan.
But further studies completed since then have found that duck and sea otter populations have recovered from the oil spill, prompting the US and Alaska to tell a federal court yesterday that they would "not file a reopener claim and that this litigation will remain closed."
US Department of Justice attorney John Cruden yesterday said they had successfully preserved the government's ability to recover damages and to continue the investigation "to its logical end."
But Alaska attorney general Craig Richards said the decision to end the litigation would not "close the book on lingering oil." A trustee council set up after the spill still has $200mn to continue environmental restoration work.
ExxonMobil declined to comment.