By Christine Kim
Channel 2 News
6:57 PM AKST, March 4, 2011
A Federal Court denied environmental activist Rick Steiner’s request to act on behalf of the state and federal governments, but is considering his motion to make Exxon pay additional money for the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
The four parties -- the federal government, State of Alaska, Exxon and Steiner -- gave an update on the reopener claim, which the governments filed in 2006 for $92 million for unpredicted damages to Prince William Sound.
Steiner told the court he believes the delay has compromised the injured environment, and he wants Exxon to pay $92 million from the Reopener claim from the 1991 settlement, with interest, and a criminal fine of $125 million, which was omitted due to Exxon's cooperation in the past.
That would be a total of $240 million.
“None of us had any vision of this 20 years ago that caught up in a total mess,” said Steiner. “We thought the claim would be payable. Exxon would pay it, and they haven’t.”
Exxon argued $200 million remain from the original settlement that the government could use and says it believes it has no obligation to pay.
“To date, Exxon has not seen anything that rises to the level of what was designed to be addressed by the Reopener Claim, and we do believe that time has passed and that had to be in 2006,” said Exxon attorney Carla Christofferson. “But that in no way is meant to give the impression that we do not have continuing discussions.”
The State and Federal government say they are still conducting studies to find out the severity of the lingering oil that resulted from the spill, the basis to their claim. They say there's still more research to be done before moving forward.
“The intent is to have the best scientific foundation for whatever restoration plan we eventually come to so that when the weather hits the road and we have to talk to Exxon either in a settlement or in court about going forward and providing this money, that we have the best foundation for doing so and the best arguments for saying, ‘Yes, this is what needs to be done,’ that it's done in the most financially expedient way and in fact, that we don’t do more harm to the environment,” said Bill McAllister from the State Department of Law.
Judge H Russel Holland can rule on the court's own authority to order Exxon to pay, not just the $92 million, but the $240 million.
Judge Holland says he will get back to the parties in about a week.
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