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High court to hear Exxon Valdez damages case

  Environmental  -   POSTED: 2008/02/26 16:44

For many in this coastal town, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster was an event so crushing that hard-bitten fishermen still get teary-eyed recalling ruined livelihoods, broken marriages and suicides.

But mostly, people in Cordova talk about the discouraging wait for legal retribution for the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

It's been almost 19 years since the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground at Alaska's Bligh Reef, spurting 11 million gallons of crude into the rich fishing waters of Prince William Sound. In 1994, an Anchorage jury awarded victims $5 billion in punitive damages. That amount has since been cut in half by other courts on appeals by Exxon Mobil Corp.

Now the town of 2,200 looks anxiously to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments Wednesday from Exxon on why the company should not have to pay punitive damages at all.

Scores of Cordova residents are among almost 33,000 plaintiffs — including commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, landowners, businesses and local governments — who could see the $2.5 billion judgment taken away by the high court.


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