June 1, 2006

US govt seeks $92 mln extra for Exxon Valdez spill

By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Thursday said
it will pursue $92 million in extra damage claims against Exxon
Mobil Corp. for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the
worst in U.S. history.

Four U.S. agencies including the Justice Department and the
state of Alaska say it will cost that much more to clean up
lingering environmental damage from when the Exxon Valdez
supertanker ran aground in Alaska's Prince William Sound and
spilled about 11 million gallons of crude oil.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil, the world's largest
publicly traded oil company, has already paid $900 million in a
1991 civil settlement.

But a "reopener" provision in the deal allowed the
government to seek up to $100 million extra for unforeseen
damages. Exxon reported a $36 billion profit last year.

The government sent the new cleanup plan to Exxon on
Thursday. If Exxon refuses to pay, the government faces a
September 1 deadline to file an official claim in court.

Exxon will study the government's request but "nothing we
have seen so far ... indicates that this request for further
funding from Exxon is justified," company spokesman Mark
Boudreax said in a statement.

Exxon agrees that there are "small pockets" of lingering
oil, but those are limited to less than two-tenths of 1 percent
of the Prince William Sound shoreline, Boudreax said.

"There is no scientific evidence that this oil ... could
cause damage to any population or species," he said.

Trustees overseeing Exxon's previous $900 million payment
still have about $145 million on hand and that money should be
used for additional cleanup, he said.

But government studies done since 2001 have found that
there is still oil residue left just below the surface of
Alaska's beaches from the spill.

"After extensive review it is clear that populations and
habitat within the oil spill area have suffered substantial and
unanticipated injuries that are attributable to the Exxon
Valdez oil spill," said Alaska Attorney General David Marquez.

Marquez said he was disappointed by Exxon's initial
comments. "I hope they will take a long and serious look at our
proposal," he said.

Crude oil from the grounded Exxon tanker spread to 1,087
miles of coastline, including the Chugach National Forest,
three national parks, four national wildlife refuges and five
state parks.

Oil from the spill killed about 250,000 marine birds, 2,800
sea otters, and wreaked havoc on shellfish, mussels and killer
whales, according to government estimates.

Exxon is still fighting about $5 billion in punitive
damages from the spill in a civil case brought by about 32,000
fishermen, Alaska natives and property owners. That case is
still pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.