Supreme Court Slaps Alaska Natives, Fishermen, etc. in the face!!!
This is an outrage and a cold slap in the face to the people who suffered very real and long-standing losses relating to this spill.
Here's what the legal system has essentially communicated to the victims:
"we recognize the enormity of this event and the real losses you have suffered as a result. Here's $5 billion... oh wait... here's $4.5 billion. Let's stick with that for a while. We've thought about it some more.. here's $2.5 billion.. that ought to cover it. But let's get together in twenty years to talk about it some more. Hi... nice to see you again... my, so much time has passed... we think no one cares about you any more, and won't mind if we give you one-fifth of the previously awarded amount. Oh, and by the way, inflation over the past twenty years has added up quote a bit, so that $500 million has the purchasing power of about half that by 1989 standards. Good luck to you."
I worked in the maritime industry not long after the Valdez spill, investigating accidents at sea. I reviewed the documents reporting estimates of long-term impacts to the surrounding area... and we're talking long-term. Go to the Valdez area, wade out a few feet, and lift up a rock. You'll find a nice oily surprise awaits.
The award needed to be high... in large part to maintain the highest possible incentive for the industry to prevent a repeat of this utterly preventable tragedy. I am outraged by the Supreme Court's actions today... not surprised... but outraged.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the $2.5 billion in punitive damages that Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:XOM - News) had been ordered to pay for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska.
The nation's high court ruled that the punitive damages should be limited to an amount equal to the compensatory damages of $507.5 million.
In the court's opinion, Justice David Souter concluded that the $2.5 billion in punitive damages was excessive under federal maritime law, and should be cut to the amount of actual harm.
The case involved about 32,000 commercial fishermen, Alaska natives, property owners and others harmed by the nation's worst tanker spill.
Soaring oil prices have propelled Exxon Mobil to previously unforeseen levels of profitability in recent years, posting earnings of $40.6 billion in 2007.
It took the company just under two days to bring in $2.5 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2007.
The Exxon Valdez supertanker ran aground in Alaska's Prince William Sound in March 1989, spilling about 11 million gallons of crude oil.
The spill spread oil to more than 1,200 miles of coastline, closed fisheries and killed thousands of marine mammals and hundreds of thousands of sea birds.
A federal jury in Alaska awarded $5 billion in punitive damages in 1994. A federal judge later reduced the punitive damages to $4.5 billion, and the appeals court further cut it to $2.5 billion.