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    Protesters: Exxon Still Owes Debt to Alaskans

    Environmental groups gather in D.C. to press oil giant.

    WASHINGTON -- Environmentalists on Tuesday called for a boycott of ExxonMobil, urging the oil giant to pay Alaskans several billion dollars in punitive damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill and to quit trying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, among other demands.

    The mercury was pushing 90 degrees in Washington Tuesday morning, and John Passacatando, director of Greenpeace USA, was standing with a score of activists in "Exxpose Exxon" T-shirts in front of a Capitol Hill Exxon station.

    "Anybody hot?" he asked. "It's going to get hotter thanks to Exxon Mobil,” he added, “thanks to them more than any other company on the planet."

    According to the Anchorage Daily News, the "Exxpose Exxon" campaign -- endorsed by a dozen groups, including the Alaska Coalition, MoveOn.org, and the Sierra Club -- alleges that Exxon has distinguished itself from other major oil companies by spurning renewable energy investment and funding "junk science" to try to cloud the debate on global warming. It is also the only major oil company that is still giving money to Arctic Power, the lobby working to convince Congress to open the Arctic refuge to oil development.

    The campaign is asking drivers to boycott Exxon stations, investors not to buy Exxon stock and job seekers to look elsewhere.

    "Americans have a right to demand of their large corporations that they be good corporate citizens," said Roger Schlickeisen.

    Exxon's public relations office did not return a phone call to the Daily News.

    Exxon is still appealing a $5 billion jury award to 32,000 fishermen, Alaska Natives and others harmed by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The tanker ran aground on a well-charted reef in March 1989 and fouled Prince William Sound with 11 million gallons of crude oil.

    Exxon spent $2.1 billion on a cleanup and paid more than $1 billion in fines, criminal restitutions or civil settlements to the state and federal governments.

    But its fight over the 1994 judgment in the class-action suit has lasted 11 years. Exxon says it has been punished enough and that the award is excessive. Courts have adjusted the award amount, which now stands at $4.5 billion, not counting the interest of 5.9 percent a year.

    "It's time for ExxonMobil to be a good corporate citizen and pay what it owes and to quit stiffing the fishermen and the Natives and the people of Alaska for their damages," said Debbie Sease, legislative director for the Sierra Club.

    She and other participants said they don't expect to have much impact on Exxon's profits but they can change the way the public perceives the company.

    "Corporations depend very heavily on their reputations, on their brand, on their image," Passacatando said.

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