ANCHORAGE, Alaska—The U.S. Department of Justice with the state's support opposes a motion filed by an environmentalist ordering Exxon Mobil to pay $92 million for the Prince William Sound oil spill.
It's from a provision in the 1991 settlement between the state, federal government, and Exxon. This would be the final payment and one that some say is long overdue.
The state says it takes time to support a claim, but one environmentalist says the government has had enough time.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill covered thousands of square miles along Alaska's coast making it one of the biggest environmental disasters.
“Most of the injured resources and habitats have still not fully recovered or there is ample amount of unanticipated injury in Prince William Sound and Alaska whose damages need to be addressed in some way,” said conservation consultant Rick Steiner.
Along with a $1 billion settlement, the state and the federal government demanded Exxon pay $92 million dollars under the reopener provision, but more than four years after that demand, Steiner says money hasn't been collected.
That's why he filed a motion asking the federal court to order Exxon to pay.
“The governments are asserting that none of the three parties have brought it before the court, so therefore no one else can, but I have and the court can act on their own,” said Steiner.
The Department of Justice, after consulting with the state, opposed that motion.
An Exxon spokesperson declined an interview, but told KTUU that it believes Steiner's motion had no merit and that the company will continue to seek information from the Alaska and federal governments to evaluate their claim.
The state says it's continuing more studies that need to be done to support the claim and that it will take time.
“We need to finish out the fetal season. It is my hope that this will be the last fetal season and when we're finished with this we should know whether in fact there is a restoration technique that is financially feasible and does not cause environmental harm,” said Alaska Deputy Attorney General Craig Tillery.
Steiner believes that's an excuse and is now hoping the court will act on its own.
The state says it's an issue that should be up to the parties and hopes to resolve it by the end of next year.
According to the state, the amount in the claim can't be more than $92 million, but could be less depending on the results of the studies.
Also, the state adds the money wouldn't go directly to the governments, but that Exxon would have to fund whatever remediation is appropriate.