WASHINGTON — Nineteen years after an Exxon oil tanker hit a reef and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in Alaska's Prince William Sound, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the final lawsuit lingering from one of the nation's worst environmental disasters.
On Wednesday, the court will consider Exxon Mobil's appeal, a 14-year effort that, if successful, would overturn a $2.5 billion punitive damages award considered by many to be the largest verdict ever against a U.S. corporation.
The case is superlative in many ways, most notably for the environmental havoc. An estimated 85 tons of crude have yet to be removed, according to a federal study released last year.
But the case also is notable for how it pits nearly everyone in Alaska against the world's biggest oil company — whose $40 billion net profits in 2007 broke all records for publicly traded companies.
Former governors, the current governor, supertanker captains, environmentalists, state lawmakers, Alaska natives and experts in maritime law all have joined forces with the 33,000 plaintiffs whose lawyers will ask the nation's highest court to uphold the $2.5 billion verdict.
"I've said this before, but this seems to be a case of justice delayed being justice denied," Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said. "Nineteen years later after the spill, the ongoing tragedy is that there has not been this closure. And truly we need to see closure in this case."
Why do I see a very bad 5 to 4 decision supporting Exxon and screwing every one else?