The March 24, 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez spilled over 11 million gallons of Alaska North Slope crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound, becoming one of the most significant man-made environmental disasters in human history. The spill covered over 10,000 square miles of Alaska's coastal ocean, and oiled some 1,600 miles of shoreline including three national parks, four national wildlife refuges, a national forest, five state parks, four state critical habitat areas, one state game sanctuary, and many ancestral lands for Alaska Natives.

On September 1, 2001 Exxon made its last scheduled payment of $70 million to the state and federal  governments for the spill. The 1991 $900 million court approved civil settlement included a "Reopener  for Unknown Injury" giving the state and federal governments  the opportunity to request another $100 million for unanticipated damages in 2002.

The spill had immediate and obvious catastrophic consequences for the ecosystem, and the people who depended upon the fish and wildlife of the Sound for their livelihoods and cultures. What was not immediately obvious or anticipated was the extent of long-term impacts the oil would have on fish, birds and marine mammal reproduction, the demo-graphic effects of the massive oil-induced mortalities, and the persistence of oil in the Sound ecosystem.

In 2000, Exxon Corporation posted  all-time record after-tax profits of  $17 billion - the largest profit of any corporation in history. This amounts to about $50 million / day of after-tax profit. Thus, to pay the entire $100 million Reopener claim due the government from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill would only cost the company the equivalent of two days of its net profit.

The "reopener clause" requires Exxon pay the governments up to an additional $100 million in the years 2002 - 2006 for natural resource damages that "could not reasonably have been known nor…anticipated" at the time of settlement in October, 1991.
Today a coalition of environmental groups in the Sound demand that the state and federal governments bill Exxon additional $100 million for unanticipated injuries from Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

The government trustees have an obligation to the public, the court, and the environment to seek to collect all the damages due, including the $100 million Reopener damages, and to apply those monies toward the most effective mitigation initiatives possible within the injured ecosystem.

Thirteen years after the spill, it is clear that many species injured by the spill have not fully recovered.

The "Status of Injured Resources and Services" in the 2001 EVOS Trustee Council Status Report lists only two injured species as recovered - bald eagles and river otters. Listed as not recovering are loons, three species of cormorants, harbor seals, killer whales, and pigeon guillemots; listed as recovering (not recovered) are black oystercatchers, murres, marbled murrelets, mussels, herring, pink salmon, red salmon, sea otter, intertidal habitat, subtidal habitat, and archeological sites.

Resource services listed as having not recovered include subsistence, passive uses, recreation and tourism, and commercial fishing. In fact, some scientists have recently suggested that the Prince William Sound ecosystem may never recover to pre-spill conditions.