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EPA Can Shield Studies Into Exxon Valdez Spill

WASHINGTON (CN) - ExxonMobil cannot access government studies about oil that has lingered beneath the surface in the Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska, which were the site of the massive Exxon Valdez spill more than 21 years ago, a federal judge ruled.

As part of its efforts to oversee the use of a $900 million settlement to remediate the 11-million-gallon spill, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council approved two projects in early 2007 that would assess the areal distribution and the amount of lingering oil in the Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska.

In 2008, Exxon requested data and documents relating to the field work, analyses and modeling of the two studies. But it said the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency were less than forthcoming, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth disagreed, however, saying that Exxon had not exhausted its administrative appeals as to some of the requests and that other requested data did not qualify as agency records.

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