Exxon to pay interest on spill damages
(Source Anchorage Daily News)Exxon Mobil Corp. said Monday it won't appeal nearly $500 million in interest that a court recently ordered it to pay to Alaska fishermen, business owners and others harmed by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Exxon said it will pay $470 million in interest on the $507.5 million in punitive damages it has already begun paying out to claimants. The company has already paid out $383 million and the only sum that remains in dispute in the long-running lawsuit is $70 million in court fees, according to a company spokesman.
"We expect to make payment on the interest in the next few days," said Alan Jeffers, the Exxon spokesman.
He said he couldn't immediately provide an explanation for Exxon's decision not to challenge the court-ordered interest payment.
Exxon's decision is the latest in a series of high-profile Alaska actions this year. The company has endured two decades of infamy in the state thanks to its tanker running aground and spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Prince William Sound, and its lengthy fight over how much to pay in spill damages.
Earlier this year Exxon significantly upped its major sponsorship of the Iditarod Trail Sled-Dog Race and it began drilling on its long-dormant oil and gas leases at the promising Point Thomson field. And this month it joined the competition to build a massive North Slope gas pipeline.
"Exxon's actions lately appear to be geared at generating relationships with the Alaska public, not just elected officials," said Joe Balash, a member of the Palin administration's gas pipeline team.
"As far as what their ultimate strategy is, in my experience, Exxon doesn't do anything unless they think it's good for their shareholders," he said.
The request for punitive damages was filed by Alaska Natives, fishermen and others who claimed damages to their livelihoods after the Exxon Valdez oil spill sullied 1,200 miles of Alaska coast. Since the mid-1990s, Exxon has appealed court-awarded punitive damages. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month finalized the punitive damages at $507.5 million, ordered Exxon to pay interest on that amount since 1996 and set the interest rate at 5.9 percent a year.
The $470 million will roughly double the average punitive damage award to 32,000 to 35,000 claimants, said David Oesting, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
"It's a blessing for everyone involved," said Oesting, who signed Exxon's paperwork on Monday. Read more... http://www.adn.com/exxonvaldez/story/847901.html
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