It has been nearly nineteen years since the disaster of the Exxon Valdez running aground and dumping eleven million gallons of crude oil into the then pristine, Prince William Sound. The spill covered twelve hundred miles of coastline with the crude oil. Oil that stuck to everything, killing off untold thousands of marine animals and birds. The damages inflicted then still have not fully recovered.

Cordova itself, 45 miles from Bligh Reef [what the Valdez hit], was not directly touched by the slick. But its economy and citizens were devastated by the loss of so many jobs. The town depended heavily upon commercial fishing that was ruined by the insidious crude. Salmon have started to rebound, but the numbers of Harlequin ducks and sea otters are still well below pre-spill levels.

To the casual observer, the sound?s stunning beauty has been restored, but an estimated 85 tons of crude linger, according to a federal study released last year. At the Prince William Sound Science Center jars of oil-stained rocks and sand that are sill being dug up can be examined.

Amidst this backdrop Exxon is fighting tooth and nail to get out of paying punitive damages to the local citizens. In 1994, an Anchorage jury awarded victims $5 billion in punitive damages. That amount has since been cut in half by other courts on appeals by Exxon Mobil. Now it is going in front of the U.S. Supreme Court which will hear why Exxon feels it should not have to pay the damages at all. Almost 33,000 plaintiffs – including commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, landowners, businesses and local governments – could see the $2.5 billion judgment taken away by the high court. It is not like they can not afford to pay. They just posted the largest annual profit by a U.S. company ever – 40.6 billion dollars. Lets wait and see how the court handles this. Hopefully they will do the right thing and not bow to corporate demands.

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