October 30, 2007
The Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound in 1989 when the tanker hit a reef. Hundreds of thousands of seabirds and marine animals died as the crude oil spread throughout the sound, and the region's fisheries were financially devastated.
"We have had 6,000 victims who have passed away who have never seen any real justice," said Cordova Mayor Tim Joyce. "The spill tore the social fabric out of this community."
Members of the House Majority also expressed disappointment that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the question as to whether the $2.5 billion punitive damage award in the Exxon Valdez civil case is allowed under maritime law. The Court rejected an appeal by plaintiffs to re-instate an earlier $5 billion amount, and another by Exxon-Mobil to reduce the award.
Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, said, "There are really no words to express how disappointing this is. As a commercial fisherman and as an Alaskan, it is painful to see this case continue without resolution. Of the 30,000 plaintiffs, more than 8,000 have passed away without any justice, and leaving their estates in limbo. Hopefully, today's decision will lead to a final conclusion of the litigation."
Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, Chairman of the House Special Committee on Fisheries, said, "It is unfortunate that this decision by the Supreme Court will delay the potential compensation of Alaskan families. The damage to our coastal communities has been significant. It is time that this matter sees resolution."
Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said, "Hopefully, this will bring to a conclusion one of the bleaker moments in Alaska's history. It has been a long and difficult process, and we will have to wait another eight months or so to see if justice is served."
Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, said, "I know there are many fishermen, processors and others throughout Prince William Sound who were hoping for a final decision on this case today, and who are, therefore, disappointed. I share in that disappointment. With the Court's rejection of the appeals to change the amount of the award, it looks like we have entered an "all-or-nothing" phase."
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Kodiak, said, "I am angry. Exxon has done everything in its power to drag this case on for almost 20 years. I have been hearing a lot of talk in this building as of late about a partnership between the oil producers and the state. Exxon's stalling tactics are not the actions of a good partner."
Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, said, "This has been dragging on since March 24, 1989, and should have been resolved years ago. With today's decision, the Supreme Court continues to keep hope alive for our fishing families. I look forward to a positive decision to follow."
The case is expected to be heard in the spring.
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