The Supreme Court cut Exxon's payment far more than many residents had expected.
Two decades after the Exxon Valdez supertanker veered off course, slammed into a reef in Prince William Sound, and created the nation's worst oil spill, some Alaskans say they've been hit by another disaster – a legal one.
A US Supreme Court ruling Wednesday trimmed punitive damages for the 1989 catastrophe by at least 80 percent. So, instead of the $2.5 billion that some 32,000 plaintiffs had been awarded, the court decided the damages should equal no more than the $507.5 million already paid in compensation to private plaintiffs. Reaction in Alaska was fast and furious.
"Tragic," said Gov. Sarah Palin.
"Adds insult to injury," said Alaska's congressional delegation in a statement.
Not long ago, some Alaskans worried that the fishing hub would sprout "spillionaires" – ordinary people suddenly rich from lump-sum Exxon payouts. Now in Cordova, there is talk of giving up homes, fishing permits, and the town itself, said Riki Ott, a local fisherman, scientist, and environmentalist. "There are some people, they look like they've been shellshocked."