Exxon Mobil have asked a federal district court in Anchorage to reduce a $5 billion punitive damage award levied against it resulting from the Exxon Valdez oil spill to no more than $40 million.
Exxon Mobil spokesman Tom Cirigliano said on Wednesday that the company is following up on a decision by a panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals last November.
The appeals court panel found that the $5 billion awarded by an Anchorage jury in 1994 to thousands of commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, property owners and others harmed by the spill was excessive. It ordered the Anchorage court to reduce the award.
The appeals court later refused to review its decision. Exxon Mobil had until June 17 to file the motion.
Exxon Mobil said that the punitive damages should be $25 million -- the amount of the fine imposed by the government for the spill. It also said the punitive damages shouldn't exceed $40 million, or twice the compensatory damages awarded to private plaintiffs.
"Pocket change," said Patience Anderson Faulkner of Cordova, when asked about the amounts suggested by Exxon Mobil. "It is going to amount to no money at all."
Faulkner worked with lawyers on a class action suit after the spill to chronicle the damage and submit claims against the company.
Faulkner said the effects of the spill continue to devastate the community of about 2,500 people at the southeastern end of Prince William Sound. A fishing permit before the spill cost more than $200,000, she said. Now one costs $40,000.
Exxon Mobil has maintained that Prince William Sound fully recovered from the massive oil spill years ago.
The spill occurred in 1989 when the 987-foot (296-meter) oil tanker ran aground on a reef, spilling nearly 11 million gallons (42 million liters) of crude. It was the worst spill in U.S. waters in history.
Exxon Mobil said it paid $300 million to more than 11,000 Alaskans and businesses soon after the spill.
Exxon also paid $2.2 billion on the cleanup from 1989 to 1992, when the state and the Coast Guard declared it was complete. And it paid $1 billion in settlements with the state of Alaska and the federal government.