Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Exxon Was Here: Make them pay!

UPDATE: If you'd like to do some scholarly reading on this topic, see here (From 22 Alaska L. Rev. 135):


You can follow the link in the article and just read the part about the Reopener Clause if you're interested in seeing exactly what it is. The article is written, in part, by one of my professors.

OK, I have a very special post today, a request from my good friend Guacamole Kid. Most of you who are regular readers have heard me talk about GK quite a bit, he's a good friend, a drinking buddy, a surrogate brother, and an all-around nice guy. I've mentioned it before, but in case you weren't paying attention, GK is an Alaska guy, a commercial fisherman, and has made his living that way for (if memory serves) close to 30 years...since he was a wee teenager. The issues below are near and dear to his heart, he cares very deeply about the ongoing environmental problems surrounding the Exxon Valdez oil spill and has worked on this issue extensively for many years. He asked me to post a link to an article that's posted in Craigslist, but I'm going to do one better and post the link plus the article in its entirety, with the pictures, here on the blog (that's GK's hand you see in the pictures).

If this is an issue you care about, I URGE you to at least link to the CL post, but it would also be great if you reposted the content on your blog, or even just linked back to me. Anything that gets the word out helps. Thanks!

RANT: Exxon -- Make 'em Pay!

Posted below are pictures of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez in March 1989, taken in Prince William Sound, Alaska TWO WEEKS ago. The Exxon Valdez's crude oil is there, everywhere -- all that is required to find it is landing on a beach in Prince William Sound and moving a few rocks, some sand and mud.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill irreparably harmed the previously almost pristine ecosystem of Prince William Sound, and with it, innumerable commercial fishermen who depended on the Sound's bounty for their livelihood. Also seriously hurt in the spill were Alaska Natives, especially those who, until the events of March 24, 1989, engaged in a fulfilling subsistence-based lifestyle. Thanks to Exxon, this lifestyle is no longer possible for the Natives of Prince William Sound.

Exxon claims that all damages from the spill have been repaired, that the Sound is thriving, and that no effects from the oil are still felt today. These pictures prove that that story is a lie. Yet, Exxon maintains this lie, because if it can be proven that "unforeseen damages" still exist from the spill, they may have to pay up to $100,000,000 more to repair those damages.

Here's why: the original settlement signed by the U.S. Government, the State of Alaska, and Exxon required Exxon to pay $900 million in damages to the Governments. It further called for the creation of a Trustee Council, composed of three appointees of the United States and three from Alaska, to be charged with spending the settlement monies to restore the damaged environment in and around Prince William Sound. The settlement also included the following “Reopener for Unknown Injury”:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement, between September 1, 2002, and September 1, 2006, Exxon shall pay to the Governments such additional sums as are required for the performance of restoration projects in Prince William Sound and other areas affected by the Oil Spill to restore one or more populations, habitats, or species which, as a result of the Oil Spill, have suffered a substantial loss or substantial decline in the areas affected by the Oil Spill; provided, however, that for a restoration project to qualify for payment under this paragraph the project must meet the following requirements:

(a) the cost of a restoration project must not be grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of the benefits anticipated from the remediation; and
(b) the injury to the affected population, habitat, or species could not reasonably have been known nor could it reasonably have been anticipated by any Trustee from any information in the possession of or reasonably available to any Trustee on the Effective Date.

These additional sums for restoration projects are capped at $100 million. In order to invoke the Reopener, the Governments are required to “file with Exxon, 90 days before demanding any payment pursuant to Paragraph 17, detailed plans for all such restoration projects, together with a statement of all amounts they claim should be paid under Paragraph 17 and all information upon which they relied in the preparation of the restoration plan and the accompanying cost statement.”

The Spill's effects on the environment and people of Prince William Sound and Alaska persist. Please CALL YOUR SENATOR OR REPRESENTATIVE and tell them to demand that the Federal government pursue the $100,000,000 -- ExxonMobil can afford it, they made $36 BILLION last year!

Rep. Dave Reichert: Rep. Reichert has hinted that he would sponsor a resolution demanding Exxon pay -- call his office and voice your support!
(206) 275-3438

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): Sen. Murkowski has also voiced support for exercising the reopener -- call her and tell her you support her demand that the Government pursue the reopener money!!

Sen. Patty Murray:
(206) 553-5545

Sen. Maria Cantwell
(206) 220-6400

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