Publication Title

Alaska Law Review


Exxon Valdez, natural resource damages, Prince William Sound, Reopener Clause

Document Type



The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill caused extensive natural resource damage to the Prince William Sound. Lawsuits addressing this natural resource damage resulted in a settlement that required Exxon to pay $900 million over time to trustees charged with spending this money to restore the damaged environment of the Sound and nearby areas. The settlement included a “Reopener Clause,” which pledges Exxon to spend an additional $100 million to fund restoration or rehabilitation of resources whose injuries were not foreseeable in 1989.

This Article urges the State of Alaska and the United States to seek enforcement of the Reopener Clause, to restore natural resources and Native subsistence uses that were not addressed in the initial settlement and have not recovered from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Alternatively, this Article urges Native entities to intervene in the case and seek enforcement of the Reopener Clause. To date, neither Alaska nor the federal government have requested any of the $100 million Exxon may be required to pay to compensate for additional damages resulting from the oil spill.

We offer extended comment on this most famous of all natural resource damage cases. Special attention will be paid to legal roads not taken.



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