The state on Thursday officially condemned Exxon's plan to clean up oil infested shoreline areas, saying the oil company has seriously underestimated the magnitude of the work that must be done.
In a letter to Coast Guard Commandant Paul Yost, who must approve or reject the Exxon plan, state environmental commissioner Dennis Kelso called the plan "unacceptable" and reiterated comments the state has been making for several weeks.
Kelso criticized the plan because it largely ignores beaches outside Prince William Sound, even though shorelines as far away as Katmai, 300 miles to the southwest, have been hit by oil.
Exxon wants to wash 364 miles of coast by mid September. Another 200 miles of beach would be left alone, to be cleaned of oil by natural forces, according to the Exxon proposal.
Kelso said Exxon's preferred cleaning technique washing a beach three times with cold water is ineffective and won't adequately remove the oil.
The plan underestimates the total amount of shoreline to be cleaned, how many people it will take to do the cleanup and how long it will take, Kelso said, noting that more beaches are being oiled every day but the plan doesn't allow for that.
"The plan has serious shortcomings that must be addressed" before the Coast Guard passes on it, Kelso told Yost.
Exxon officials did not return a phone call to their Valdez command center Thursday to discuss the state's concerns. But Otto Harrison, the Exxon executive supervising the cleanup, praised the plan in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
"It's a comprehensive plan. It's a good plan. It's an economically sound plan and we're convinced it will work," Harrison said.
Exxon Corp. President Lee R. Raymond, at a news conference in his New York offices, denied the company was trying to cut corners in the cleanup, according to an Associated Press report. But he complained that as many as 14 government agencies may be involved in approving and carrying out the final plan.
"I want one person in charge I don't care who it is because there has to be one person that finally says, "Hey, it's midnight and we gotta do something,' " Raymond said. "Anything reasonable, anything that makes sense that they would say you ought to do in addition to what you have in the plan, we'll do it."
Lt. Eldo DeLong of the Coast Guard said Yost and Secretary of Transportation Samuel Skinner met for an hour Thursday with state and federal officials to discuss the Exxon plan. The two were expected to talk it over with Vice President Dan Quayle when he visited Cordova and some oil spill sites Thursday evening, DeLong said.
Yost is expected to say whether he'll approve the plan or not sometime today, DeLong said. But the Coast Guard wouldn't comment on the meeting Thursday because "they don't want anything to upstage the vice president's visit," he said.
Meanwhile, state conservation groups and Cordova fishermen renewed demands Thursday for more stringent laws, more oil industry taxes and more watchdogs aimed at getting the current oil spill cleaned up and preventing future spills.
The list of demands included repeal of the Economic Limit Factor oil company tax break, increased civil and criminal penalties for fouling the environment, an increased role in cleanup efforts by the state and a moratorium on federal oil leases, like those in Bristol Bay.
"The spill in the (Prince William) Sound is just one symptom of an industry running amok," said Sue Libenson, executive director of the Alaska Center for the Environment. "We've got to take a look at an overall regulatory approach to dealing with this."
story 113 of 380
story 23 of 40