Hearing Scheduled to Determine Status of Brief Relating to Exxon Valdez Settlement

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A federal court hearing scheduled for Friday will allow arguments as to whether an amicus brief can be filed in a case that has not yet been to court. Retired UAA Marine conservation Professor Rick Steiner filed the request in Judge H. Russel Holland’s court in December. Steiner plans to ask Judge Holland to order Exxon to pay the more than $92 million requested of them in 2006 from the original Exxon Valdez settlement in 1991 that contained a re-opener clause for up to $100 million if unforeseen damage resulted from the spill years later. Steiner says he was in the courtroom in 1991 when Exxon promised to do the right thing.

Steiner intends to ask Judge Holland, who was the judge that presided over the original settlement, to add interest to the $92 million that would bring the total to $115 million.

The reopener was invoked during Frank Murkowski’s tenure as Governor in 2006. The demand for payment was made on August 31 of that year. One day before the time to request it would have run out and the reopener would have been void. Murkowski sent a letter to Holland’s court this week urging the judge to settle the issue. Saying Alaskan’s deserve closure. Steiner says because there hasn’t been a hearing, the judge could have dismissed his brief filing request out of hand.

Steiner says government science shows 19 of 32 species are not fully recovered in Prince William Sound.

Steiner’s request, not surprisingly, is objected to by Exxon, but it’s also being protested by the state and federal government on the procedural point that he can’t file a brief on a case that hasn’t been to court. Steiner says after wide spread public support for invoking the reopener more than four years ago, both the Palin and Parnell administrations did nothing to force the payment issue with Exxon.

State Attorney General Spokesman Bill McAllister says Steiner is trying to force a certain timetable on the proceedings that should be left up to the parties in the case. McAllister says Exxon isn’t going anywhere and when the studies show the best way to proceed, the corporation can still be requested to pay. Steiner says using the agreed upon standard for the reopener that extensive environmental injury not seen 22 years ago is documented, those studies are already completed.

The hearing in Judge Holland’s court is scheduled for 10 am Friday in Anchorage.

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