Pipeline Company Settles With Critic
WASHINGTON (AP) _ An oil industry critic who accused Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. of illegally spying on him settled his lawsuit today with the consortium that runs the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The amount of the settlement was not disclosed in U.S. District Court here. But sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the sum was several million dollars. One source said it was in the $5 million range.
The critic, Charles Hamel, and his wife, Kathleen, who live in Alexandria, Va., said in a statement the agreement is a victory for whistle-blowers who leaked confidential information to the Hamels about alleged environmental violations by Alyeska.
″It has been a struggle ... for all of the courageous people who brought forward the truth,″ Hamel said. ″This settlement is a milestone achievement.″
Alyeska said in a statement it had not ″conceded any wrongdoing″ but agreed to improve its auditing and accountability procedures.
U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin, in announcing the settlement, said the alleged spying on Hamel - if true - cannot be condoned.
But the judge said the oil companies that run the pipeline deserve praise for ″calling off the dogs″ when they were told what was going on.
″It’s clear beyond any question the owners did the right thing and their swiftness was impressive,″ Sporkin said.
But he criticized the oil companies for initially choosing to defend in court ″what they so harshly condemned″ privately when they discovered the Hamels were under investigation by the pipeline company and the Wackenhut Corp., a security company hired by Alyeska.
Sporkin also said he was concerned that confidential corporate documents were leaked in the first place.
A congressional panel said earlier this year that Alyeska may have broken the law by spying on the Hamels.
Hamel had passed on information he got from the whistle-blowers to Congress and the media, and that led Alaska’s oil industry to upgrade environmental safeguards.
Exxon, BP and Arco are the three main owners of Alyeska Pipeline. Exxon Shipping is the owner of the tanker the Exxon Valdez that ran aground in Prince William Sound in March 1989 causing a massive oil spill and estimated billions of dollars in environmental damage.