Posted by: Kevin | February 28, 2008

Justice Deferred is Justice Denied

At least it is for 6,000 of the original 33,000 fisherman, Native Alaskans, cannery workers and others who won a $5 billion judgment against Exxon in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  From the Washington Post:

In the time span of the battle — 14 years after the verdict, nearly two decades since the spill itself — claimants’ lawyers say there is a new statistic to add to the grim legacy of the disaster in Prince William Sound: Nearly 20 percent of the 33,000 fishermen, Native Alaskans, cannery workers and others who triumphed in court that day are dead.

Exxon Valdez remains the standard bearer for ecological disasters.  Prince William’s Sound remains polluted to this day despite billions spent on the clean-up effort both by Exxon and by Taxpayers.  This lawsuit isn’t to recover the cost of clean-up.  It is intended both to punish Exxon and to compensate those whose livelihood was wiped out by the spill.

Exxon has used literally every tool and trick at its disposal over the past 14 years to resist paying the $5 billion judgment.  They successfully got it cut to $2.5 billion in 2006 but that wasn’t enough for the company which has recently posted the highest quarterly earnings in US history.  Now they’ve gone before the Supreme Court in the hopes of getting the judgment thrown out.

$2.5 billion sounds like a lot of money.  Should any company be punished to that extent, should any victim be so rewarded?  Divide the cash amongst 33,000 people and you get about $83K per person.  Between the loss of livelihood, the decline in property value and the health consequences of living in an environment saturated with crude oil, $83K isn’t much.  It certainly isn’t too much. 

Exxon fucked up, their procedures and their oversight were found to be deficient and responsible for the Exxon Valdez disaster.  It’s about time they paid.


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