WASHINGTON (AP) -- Negotiations to settle claims over the Exxon Valdez oil spill could collapse unless a court order delaying a signed agreement is lifted now, the Justice Department told the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here yesterday.
U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin Thursday barred any settlement in the March 1989 spill until he considers a challenge by five Eskimo villages who want to be in on the talks.
Judge Sporkin set a hearing in the case for Monday. But the administration asked the appeals court to throw out the judge's order and let the government's negotiations with Exxon proceed unimpeded.
The Eskimos' attorney said he believed the government would sign an agreement with Exxon this weekend if Judge Sporkin's order were lifted.
The Eskimos fear the government may be negotiating away some of their rights.