Considering the 20-plus-year battle of Everyone v. Exxon, one can only envision what lies ahead for BP. Though the Valdez spill occurred in 1989 and Exxon settled just two years later, the case was again in the news last week as a “longtime Alaska activist” urged the government to compel Exxon to pay additional claims that were filed in 2006.
In the 1991 civil settlement, Exxon agreed to pay $900 million over a 10-year period. The consent decree, however, included a “reopener” (see item 17) that required Exxon to pay the government up to an additional $100 million for restoration of “presently-unknown and unanticipated injury to populations, species or habitats.” The window for claims filed under this reopener was between September 1, 2002 and September 1, 2006, and any demand for payment was to be preceded by a detailed plan for all such restoration projects.
On June 1, 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Alaska Department of Law announced that, based on studies showing significant lingering oil and subsequent unanticipated impacts to natural resources, they were moving forward with a $92 million claim against Exxon. You can read their Comprehensive Plan for Habitat Restoration Projects Pursuant to Reopener for Unknown Injury here.
But four years has passed and Exxon hasn’t paid up. According to the press, Exxon doesn’t believe that wildlife is still being harmed by residual oil on the beaches, despite the information to the contrary presented in the restoration proposals. Enter aforementioned activist Rick Steiner, who just recently filed a court motion asking the government for help in forcing Exxon’s hand.
Neither the state nor the federal government have responded to Steiner’s plea.
You can keep up-to-date on the reopener on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s website. The Council administers Exxon’s settlement funds, and keeps tabs on the status of restoration in the area.