Exxon back in court over 1989 Valdez spill fine

Today, ExxonMobil reported that its annual profit reached a record $33.9 billion and the highest quarterly profit for a U.S. company — ever. Let’s remember that they still haven’t paid the fine for the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989.

Link: Exxon back in court over 1989 Valdez spill fine – Environment – MSNBC.com

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s been nearly 17 years since the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil along the Alaska coast in one of the country’s worst environmental disasters, and a jury’s $5 billion judgment against the company is still tied up in the courts.

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s appeal of that punishment was scheduled to be heard for the third time Friday afternoon in a federal appeals court in San Francisco.

The case stems from a 1994 decision by an Anchorage jury to award punitive damages to 34,000 fishermen and other Alaskans.

The residents claimed they were harmed when the Valdez struck a charted reef and spilled crude oil along about 1,500 miles of coastline. They alleged that the captain was drunk and that Exxon knew he had a drinking problem. The jury found Exxon and Valdez captain Joseph Hazelwood reckless in the accident.

Company willing to pay $25 million
Exxon argues it should have to pay no more than $25 million in punitive damages.

The corporation, which reported third-quarter earnings of $10 billion, says it has spent more than $3 billion to settle federal and state lawsuits and to clean the Prince William Sound area.

In two previous appeals, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland of Anchorage to reduce the judgment against Exxon, saying it was unconstitutionally excessive.

Holland begrudgingly complied in 2002, reducing it to $4 billion. Exxon appealed, and Holland was ordered to revisit the decision again. He called Exxon’s actions “reprehensible,” and set the figure at $4.5 billion plus interest.