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Exxon Rejects Alaska's $1.2 Billion Proposal to Settle Oil-Spill Lawsuit

EXXON has balked at Alaska's $1.2 billion proposal to resolve a lawsuit against the oil company over its huge oil spill two years ago. Exxon objects to the total amount of the settlement, to the payment plan, and to a ``reopener'' clause that would require additional payments if long-term scientific studies show more damage was caused by the spill than has been indicated so far.

``There's been no agreement on any substantive issue,'' state Attorney General Charles Cole said.

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Exxon had no comment.

In March 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef and dumped nearly 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound.

Alaska sued Exxon and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, which operates the trans-Alaska pipeline and Valdez, Alaska, terminal for Exxon and six other companies. Mr. Cole said Alyeska was not involved in the proposed settlement.

Exxon reportedly wants to pay on the installment plan, taking 10 or 12 years, thus diluting the actual dollar value of the settlement.

Environmentalists, fishermen, native villagers, and state lawmakers have become increasingly vocal in their opposition to the closed-door dealing to settle the case, fearing the state is too eager to settle.

``We're trying to make a settlement to benefit Prince William Sound and eliminate legal complications that could drag on for years,'' said Gov. Walter Hickel.

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