Tuesday, 1 July 2008

SCUS cuts Exxon Valdez fine by $4.493 billion

Valdez cleanup: Jim Brickett
The fix is in -- again. The US Supreme Court, packed with Republican judges, on 25 June reduced Exxon's liability for the Valdez oil spill by almost 90%, upholding a 1994 appeal court decision to cut $2.5b and slashing punitive damages to $507m. Exxon lawyers have been delaying fines for decades. “The decision could have an effect far beyond federal maritime law,” exulted the US Chamber of Commerce, expecting the decision will reduce fines for polluters of earth, air, and fresh water as well as the oceans. For some time the Court has been cutting back punitive damages in class actions.

Exxon's $40.6b last year were the highest profits in history for a corporation, $4.6 million an hour, according to the conservative Washington Post . Oil companies' profits have risen 200% since 2002.

On 24 March 1989 the Exxon Valdez
, whose captain and crew had been under corporate pressure to speed up the voyage, sailed without a pilot, hit a reef, fouled an estimated 1,300 miles of Alaska coastline, killed hundreds of thousands of birds and animals, and deprived some 30,000 fishermen, natives and landowners of their livelihoods. Toxic sludge still fouls over 200 miles of coast;
18 years later, cleanup crews report severe health problems.

People whose businesses were destroyed by the Valdez spill face bankruptcy and retirement problems, according to the LA Times. One says, "I'm expecting a call that someone I know has jumped out a building. That’s how bad it is.” The leader of Prince William Sound Fishermen Plaintiffs told the Dallas Morning News, “My faith in our legal and political system is at a very low point.” Another fisherman told the NY Times simply, “This is a knife in the gut.”
Even Alaska's Republican governor is unhappy. “While the decision brings some degree of closure to Alaskans suffering from 19 years of litigation and delay, the Court gutted the jury’s decision on punitive damages.” The decision weakens shipping and environmental law.

See also:
Wikipedia Exxon Valdez oil spill:
webmasters have foiled Exxon hackers who tried to remove damaging facts. Photos on Alaska state website. Corpwatch reports on ExxonMobil (formerly Standard Oil, whose worst toxic site is in Brooklyn) and other companies. EcologyCenter.org worldwide map of oil spills and environmental impacts.

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