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Exxon Profits Up, Valdez Anger Lingers

By Monisha Bansal
CNSNews.com Correspondent
January 30, 2006

(CNSNews.com) - On a day when Exxon Mobil Corp. was announcing record breaking profits, some of its critics were using the profit statement as a stick to beat the company for its alleged sins. Those include the long-ago Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska and Exxon Mobil''s support of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"With record breaking profits should come record breaking responsibility," Gene Karpinski, executive director of U.S. Public Interest Research Groups, told reporters Monday.

In response, a free market spokesman and defender of Exxon Mobil asserted that the Valdez disaster was "a problem that''s long passed."

Shortly after midnight on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez smashed into Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. The ship''s captain was Joseph Hazelwood, who would eventually be acquitted of a charge that he operated the ship while under the influence of alcohol, but convicted of the misdemeanor charge of negligent discharge of oil.

The Valdez tanker spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, with the slick eventually spreading along 1,300 miles of the Alaskan coast. The spill harmed wildlife and fish in the area, becoming the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

"Exxon is the most anti-environmental company in the world," said Karpinski.

"They threatened the web of life," added Rev. Mark McDonald, bishop of the Episcopal Church of Alaska.

Referring to the $36.13 billion in profits Exxon Mobil earned last year, McDonald added that "they should share that wealth with all people." The 2005 profits represent a 42 percent jump from the numbers reported in 2004 and is the largest yearly profit ever reported by a U.S. company.

Exxon-Mobil was originally ordered by a jury to pay $5 billion in damages for the Valdez spill, an amount that is still being disputed in court.

"If they were good corporate citizens they would have made the community that was damaged by their activities whole. We have not been made whole," Ross Mullins, an Alaskan fisherman, told Cybercast News Service .

"Exxon''s continued pressing for opening the Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge is so inappropriate, given the fact that they have not been good corporate citizens," Mullins added. "It would be foolish to allow them to go into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge even with their platitudes of not having a big footprint or damaging the environment. I think it''s all a smokescreen to bamboozle the public."

The Bush administration has been pressing Congress for several years, to no avail, to authorize oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Republicans say the oil tapped from the Refuge would help reduce the country''s current dependence on foreign oil. Democrats have countered that the drilling is not worth the damage to the environment that would occur.

Myron Ebell, director for global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, criticized the attempt by Exxon Mobil critics to get the company to share its profits.

"Sharing the wealth is a recipe to make sure that they can no longer provide good products at competitive prices because they will not have any money to reinvest in their industry," Ebell said. "What they are saying is that the company should be put out of business by giving away their profits.

"I guess we could learn to get along without oil and gas and start living in caves again," Ebell told Cybercast News Service.

The Exxon Valdez disaster, he added, is "a problem that''s long passed."

"Oil is biodegradable and goes away after a time. We didn''t have a trust fund to clean up the East Coast after World War II, even though every beach had oil on it from oil tankers sunk by the Germans. In fact, within a few years everyone had forgotten about it," Ebell said.

He also countered the effort by some Alaskans to get more money in damages from Exxon Mobil. "The Exxon Valdez trust fund was so large that the administrators of that trust fund were unable to find enough environmental restoration to be done," Ebell said, adding that "much of that money was used to buy private land and turn it into public lands."




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