As this issue went to the printer, the U.S. Supreme Court had not ruled in the case against ExxonMobil arising out of the Exxon Valdez accident. The Court is being asked by ExxonMobil to set aside an award of $2.5 billion in punitive damages. Based on what I know about the case, the powerful oil giant should be punished severely. For a company that is making enormous profits, a payment of $2.5 billion would be little more than a slap on the wrist. There appears to be good reason to uphold the entire amount of punitive damages.
When the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit a reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989, the result was one of the world’s worst man-made ecological disasters. Nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Sound, creating a 3,000-square-mile oil slick that fouled more than 1,100 miles of shoreline. The impact of the spill continues to be felt because a considerable amount of oil remains just below the surface of the rocky shore. The spill is expected to have a detrimental effect on wildlife for years to come. The conduct of ExxonMobil was such that the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold the $2.5 billion in punitive damages levied.
The lawsuit was brought by 32,000 fishermen and businessmen who were adversely impacted, and in many cases forced into bankruptcy, by the spill. The jury in the civil trial originally ordered ExxonMobil to pay $5 billion in punitive damages, but on appeal, the amount was cut in half. If it’s a question of what amount would be adequate as punishment that seems to be easily answered. How much of a financial pinch can $2.5 billion be for a company that has been making record-breaking profits? It has been pointed out that ExxonMobil makes that much profit in less than three weeks time. Balancing that against the fact that many of spill’s victims have been put out of business and that the environmental cost is continuing to mount, $2.5 billion really does seem like a slap on the wrist. It’s high time for this politically powerful oil giant to pay for its wrongdoing!
Source: Cordorva News
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