Governments seek more time to decide whether to pursue restoration money in Exxon Valdez case



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JUNEAU, Alaska — The state and federal governments say they are closer to deciding whether to pursue additional money for restoration work following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill but need more time.

Government attorneys, in a court filing Monday, said the state's decision has been slowed in part by the recent change in administration. Gov. Bill Walker took office Dec. 1. The new attorney general and Fish and Game commissioner are members of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council and they also need to be attentive and responsive to the legislature, which is currently in session, the filing states.

Lawsuits brought against Exxon Mobil Corp. by the state and federal governments after the spill led to a $900 million settlement and a consent decree that resolved claims related to natural resource damages. The decree included a provision that would allow the governments to seek additional funds for restoration projects.

In 2006, the governments demanded $92 million, but they have not yet asked a judge to enforce that. Next Tuesday marks 26 years since the spill.

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland, who is handling the case, has at times expressed frustration with the pace. Last November, he noted that one of the attorneys included on the certificate of service had died in 2010 and that another had died recently. "But this case lives on, appearing to have progressed very little during this year," he wrote.

He said the trustees were proceeding with a restoration plan but did not understand why they were about eight years into the process without reaching some point of finality on the issue of whether the governments would pursue additional funds.

The governments proposed that their next report to the court be due Sept. 15 and said they would make every effort to agree on and if possible initiate a course of action by then.

Holland, in an order dated Tuesday, said he will schedule a hearing on or about that date to hear the governments' plans in open court.

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