Well, the extremely predictable ruling came down from the U.S. Supreme Court today. In a 5-3 vote the court decided to hack and slash the original $5 billion, which had already been hacked and slashed to $2.5 billion in punitive damages owed to Prince William Sound fishermen and Alaska Natives affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill to $507.5 million.
First, condolences to the 32,677 plaintiffs, their families, and all those affected by the spill who have been waiting and watching for almost 20 years, while lawyers get fat sucking on the marrow of the oil soaked bones littering the beaches of Prince William Sound. This was hard to take for ALL Alaskans, but for the plaintiffs, and all those who love the Sound, it was twisting the knife.
Second, to all those people who have bought into the idea that the oil companies have been good to Alaska by donating to charities, sponsoring sporting events, and plastering their logos on anything that doesn’t move (and some things that do), listen closely. They. Don’t. Care. Exxon has been fighting this since the moment the $5 billion was awarded to plaintiffs in 1994. Think that’s a lot of money? It’s not. Exxon’s recorded profits last year were $40.6 Billion. That’s PROFIT. Doesn’t make $507.5 million sound particularly punitive, does it? If the health, well-being and welfare of the Alaska people mattered to Exxon Mobil, these people would have been paid 13 years ago. So when you see the oil companies doing something that looks ‘nice’, remember it’s a cost of doing business to shut us up.
Third, any Alaskans who are outraged by this announcement today and are still planning to vote Republican in the upcoming presidential race – wake up. Who were the only supreme court justices voting with the Alaska people and against the interest of corporations? The progressives. Who were the ones that voted against the interest of Alaska? Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, & crew – those conservative judges that John McCain wants more of when he appoints the next 2 or 3 members of the court. Presidents are gone in four to eight years; Supreme Court justices last a lifetime. A court like this is what we get when so many Americans and Alaskans swallow the red Kool Aid, and don’t think about the political ramifications of their votes to their own interest when the chips are down. So, in November, think. Please.
By the time all is said and done a huge portion of the $507.5 million has evaporated with the shrinking value of the dollar since 1989, another huge portion went to the lawyers, 8000 of the plaintiffs are dead, and the Sound has still not recovered, and won’t in our lifetime. They got about 10% of the oil, they think. Sometimes in life, you get a cheap lesson…this wasn’t one of those times.
Don’t forget this when they tell you Pebble Mine won’t destroy the Bristol Bay fishery. Don’t forget this every time we negotiate with the oil companies about anything. Don’t forget this every time you see a warm fuzzy TV commercial, or see oil company logos every time you turn around. Don’t forget that anyone in our state to develop finite natural resources is here for the money. Period. And don’t forget this when you vote in November.