The federal government and Alaska said today that they would seek to get the Exxon Mobil Corporation to pay an additional $92 million to clean up the lingering effects of the 1989 oil spill caused by the crash of the tanker Exxon Valdez.
Exxon Mobil, which has already paid $900 million as a result of the spill of 11 million gallons of crude oil, said it would study the request, but indicated that it did not see a need for further cleanup efforts.
"Nothing we have seen so far," the company said in a statement, "indicates that this request for further funding from Exxon is justified."
The 1991 settlement of a civil suit by the federal and state governments against Exxon included a reopener clause that obligated the company to pay up to $100 million to resolve any remaining environmental damage from the spill.
"At the time of the settlement, it was not anticipated that this oil would remain toxic and continue to impact natural resources," the Justice Department said in a statement. It said the advanced bioremediation and other techniques would be used to disperse the remaining pools of oil in Prince William Sound, Ala.
The statement said animals feeding in tidal areas still contaminated with oil, notably harlequin ducks and sea otters, "show reduced survival rates."
Exxon said the request for an additional cleanup "appears to be focused primarily if not exclusively on the hypothesis that remaining weathered oil could be capably of causing biological impacts."
"That is no more than a hypothesis," the company said.
If Exxon refuses to comply, the federal and state governments will have to prove their case in federal court.
Exxon committed what is widely accepted as a public relations blunder in 1989 when its chairman at the time, Lawrence G. Rawl, waited almost a week before commenting on the Valdez spill in pristine waters and three weeks before visiting the site of the spill.
He later admitted that he should have demonstrated concern about the environmental impact by quickly going to Alaska.
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