MIXED REACTION GREETS EXXON SETTLEMENT
Environmentalists condemned the new $1 billion oil spill deal with Exxon for letting the oil giant off easy, but the governor of Alaska approved of it, and the Justice Department stressed it was one of the biggest settlements in history."This is a great settlement for the people of Alaska, for the environment, and for the federal government," said Gov. Walter Hickel. But environmentalists were incensed. "We're very disappointed," said Pam Miller of Greenpeace. "It doesn't go much beyond the last agreement. It's not a strong enough message to send to Exxon." "The public still doesn't know if it's a good deal because damage studies remain secret and no one can judge whether proposed Exxon payments are sufficient to pay for environmental restoration," said Sue Libenson of the Alaska Center for the Environment. The civil settlement announced Monday calls for Exxon to pay $900 million over the next 10 years for restoration of the damaged environment of Prince William Sound, where the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil in March 1989. The $150 million criminal fine calls for Exxon to pay $125 million, with $100 million of that going to state and federal environmental restoration projects, and $25 million suspended. US District Court Judge H. Russel Holland rejected the $100 million fine of the first settlement last spring as inadequate for a spill that "was off the chart compared to other environmental disasters in this country." The spill was the largest in US history, and so is the proposed penalty, said chief federal prosecutor Charles De Monaco.