February 10, 2008

"Punitive Damages are Needed to Keep Big Oil Accountable"

In this op-ed in the Anchorage Daily News, John Devens of the citizens' councils for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet explains why those groups filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez case. Devens argues that Exxon Mobil relies on outdated maritime law principles that no longer reflect today's realities, and he argues that punitive damages must be available in maritime law cases to deter irresponsible corporate behavior. Devens faults Exxon most for its underfunding of Alyeska Pipeline: "Alyeska Pipeline, tasked with initial cleanup efforts after a spill, was utterly unprepared for what it faced on March 24, 1989. Exxon was (and is) one of the owners of Alyeska. It helped determine Alyeska's budget, how much equipment Alyeska had on hand, and how Alyeska's people were trained to clean up oil. Alyeska's unpreparedness and the inadequate response that resulted were due in large measure to deliberate actions by Exxon itself."