Exxon Corp. will begin unwrapping its scientific data on the Exxon Valdez oil spill today, contending that little damage remains from the 11 million gallons of crude that fouled Prince William Sound in 1989. During four days of presentations at a symposium by the American Society for Testing and Materials, Exxon says it will try to demonstrate that only trace amounts of oil linger in the water and that the recovery of wildlife "has been rapid and, in most cases, is nearly complete."
Exxon also will say that some of the oil attributed to the spill came from other sources. The presentations are aimed at countering analyses by federal and state scientists that Exxon oil is still prevalent in the Sound and that environmental injury could persist for decades.
"Exxon is trying to rewrite spill history and to completely negate long- term damage," said Riki Ott, a Cordova marine biologist who is among a delegation of Alaska environmentalists monitoring the symposium.
This is the first time Exxon has released any of its spill data. It refused to participate in a forum earlier this year in Anchorage at which federal and state scientists reported on their spill research.
Exxon also turned down a request to testify at a congressional hearing on the spill last month, saying it was keeping mum on its scientific analyses until the Atlanta symposium.
The American Society for Testing and Materials is an independent scientific organization. Its spokeswoman, Dorothy Savini, said the organization prides itself on rigor and technical excellence. She said the organization insisted that the panel sessions include scientists with opposing views.
"I think we are going to see a problem between scientific data and its interpretation," Ott said. "They had scientists collect the data but it was Exxon that interpreted it."
Exxon spent nearly $3 billion cleaning up the spill and will pay another $1 billion to settle state and federal damage claims. Exxon could be held liable for another $100 million if new, unknown damages are discovered, according to the settlement.
But hundreds of other lawsuits from individual people and companies affected by the spill are still pending against the company.
Ken Adams, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who is part of a team representing commercial fishermen and processors hurt by the spill, said he thinks Exxon is trying to put on "a public-relations show" in an effort to minimize its liability and boost its corporate image.
"The long-term damage from the spill has been demonstrable," Adams said. "We know there is going to be a lot of fiction at the Atlanta sdmical "fingerprinting" technology to trace its spilled oil through the ocean ecosystem.
Exxon said it was able to determine that some of the oil identified as coming from the Exxon Valdez actually was diesel fuel, came from natural underwater oil se.
Exxon says this finding raises doubts about the accuracy of the government's spill database, which government scientists relied on for studying the impact of oil on various species and ecosystems.
Exxon also will dispute findings by other sci a seabird, will take as long as 70 years to recover from the spill.
"The new studies show murre populations are at historic levels and that birds are reproducing normally," the company said.
Exxon also said it will dispute reports that the Prir research scientist at Battelle|Marine Science Laboratories has found that the spill had minimal impacts on the herring and that "the fishery continues to support record- breaking harvests."
According to Ott, however, only about 20 percent of the he "And they are sick," Ott said. "This has never happened before, at least in Prince William Sound."
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