Signs, Seals Not Delivered
Thirteen years after the Exxon Valdez spill sent 11 million gallons of crude oil pouring into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, some species still show no sign of recovery, according to the government panel overseeing the area’s restoration. The long-suffering species include herring, ducks, harbor seals, and loons; others, such as some seabird and salmon species, are fully recovered. The Alaska Center for the Environment said the panel was right to conclude that the spill was still negatively impacting many species. ExxonMobil, however, disagreed with the findings, claiming the panel’s definition of “recovery” was flawed. The oil giant said the panel erroneously considers animal populations fully recovered only when they have returned to pre-spill numbers, even though other factors, notably climate change, are causing massive changes in Alaska’s wildlife. (Um, since when does ExxonMobil profess concern about climate change?) The panel’s evaluation could have financial implications for ExxonMobil — the post-spill settlement allows for up to $100 million to cover additional damages unforeseen in 1991.