The Exxon Valdez Reopener: Natural Resources Damage Settlements and Roads Not Taken

Alaska Law Review, Vol. 22 pp.135-211

June 1, 2005

By William H. Rodgers Jr., J. B. Crosetto III, C. A. Holley, T. C. Kade, J. H. Kaufman, C. M. Kostelec, K. A. Michael, R. J. Sandberg, and J. L. Schorr

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill caused extensive natural resource damage to the Prince William Sound. Lawsuits addressing this natural resource damage resulted in a settlement that required Exxon to pay $900 million over time to trustees charged with spending this money to restore the damaged environment of the Sound and nearby areas. The settlement included a “Reopener Clause,” which pledges Exxon to spend an additional $100 million to fund restoration or rehabilitation of resources whose injuries were not foreseeable in 1989. This Article urges the State of Alaska and the United States to seek enforcement of the Reopener Clause, to restore natural resources and Native subsistence uses that were not addressed in the initial settlement and have not recovered from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Alternatively, this Article urges Native entities to intervene in the case and seek enforcement of the Reopener Clause.

This was the largest oil spill ever to have occurred in U.S. waters and the largest anywhere this far north.

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The above is the beginning of an article originally published in 22 Alaska Law Review 135 (2005). Access the full article here.