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United States v. Exxon Corp.

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20046
Nos. 3:91-cv-00082, (D. Alaska, 02/15/2012) (Holland, J.)

A district court denied an oil company's motion to enforce a 1991 consent decree entered into in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The decree expressly released the company from cleanup obligations following the decree's entry. But it also contained a "reopener" clause that allows the government to demand payment for restoration work to address injuries not yet known at the time of the decree. In 2006, pursuant to the reopener clause, the government delivered its restoration plan to the oil company as well as its demand for payment to implement the plan. Because the company believes that the plan contemplates additional cleanup work, not restoration work, it filed the instant motion to enforce the decree, arguing that the government may not use the reopener clause to require further cleanup. But the company's motion is premature. The motion asks the court to render an advisory opinion on an interpretation disagreement with respect to a claim that has not yet been put before the court. Aside from the uncertainty of whether a claim will be presented, the company suffers no particular harm. The motion, therefore, was dismissed.