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Sept. 1, 2001 The Ketchikan Daily News chastises environmentalists over Exxon settlement

Posted: Monday, September 10, 2001

Gimme, gimme, gimme.

That's the mantra of environmental organizations in Alaska.

Exxon Mobil will make its final payment to the state Department of Revenue as a result of a damage settlement following the Exxon Valdez oil spill 12 years ago. The settlement totaled $900 million, but contained a re-opener clause for up to another $100 million. Reopening settlement talks would occur in cases of continuing damages.

The Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound in 1989 when it struck an uncharted reef. Oil covered 1,000 miles of beach and killed thousands of birds and marine mammals.

In addition to the $900 million in civil damages, the settlement called for Exxon to pay $100 million in criminal restitution and a $25 million fine. But the environmental groups aren't satisfied yet. While the period to possibly reopen talks is yet a year off, they are pointing to what they perceive as additional damages.

They have written letters to both Gov. Tony Knowles and President George Bush encourage them to file a new claim. But the period to do that isn't just until 299 or 2006. To push ahead on a claim before then just sounds greedy.

The governments need to assess the recovery of Prince William Sound and its birds and marine life. Some of it has been restored and still more is coming back. That's to be expected; some areas sustained greater damage than others and some species take longer to come back. A lot of recovery can happen in the next five years.

Environmental groups should wait for the facts. State and federal governments will evaluate and list those. But by jumping ahead of the appropriate time, environmental groups appear as if they are going after the money just because the big oil company can afford it.

The oil company shouldn't have to pay just because it can or just because it's big. If it pays, it would pay the same as those of lesser means who would find themselves in the same situation. And if it's appropriate, it should pay.

The governments' response should be measured and informed before they attempt to reopen settlement talks with Exxon. They will do a better job for the state and the nation if they are. It appears that will be their direction; they report no decisions have been made and won't be without information. They have proven in the Exxon case to date, they will act upon being informed. So the environmental organizations and any others with their hands out in a ''gimme'' fashion should calm down and let nature and government take their course.

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