I expect that almost all of you remember when, on March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Alaska’s spectacular Prince William Sound. Many of you probably don’t know that the court case against Exxon is still going on. Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cut the punitive damages award from $5 billion to $2.5 billion, and I just read in the Anchorage Daily News that Exxon has just been granted an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. Was the $5,000,000,000 too large an award for one of the worst single human-caused environmental tragedies in history? I don’t know. The disaster did force the development and use of double-hulled tankers – the new Endeavour Class tankers are impressive, to say the least – and that is very expensive. But it does seem that a legal system that allows lawyers to delay a resolution of an issue such as this for over 18 years has serious flaws. Certainly some of the people most affected by the spill have died without seeing justice served.
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