Exxon Mobil and other oil companies may have to spend as much as $6 billion to clean up their drilling operations on Alaska's North Slope, dwarfing the several million dollars they are required to put aside, according to the General Accounting Office.
Restoring the region to wilderness when the oil runs out in twenty to thirty years may cost from $2.6 billion to $6 billion, said a report from Congress's investigative arm. The state of Alaska requires the companies, which include Phillips Petroleum, Anadarko Petroleum, ChevronTexaco and BP, to post bonds or make other financial pledges of less than a million dollars each for the eventual cleanup.
“Existing financial assurances, such as bonding requirements, ensure the availability of only a small portion of the funds that are likely to be needed,” the report said.
Democrats oppose President George W. Bush's plan to expand Alaskan oil drilling to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying that the industry downplays the destructive impact on the land. The impasse with Republicans has slowed passage of a comprehensive energy bill this year.