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Gravel beaches (still) trapping oil from 1989 Exxon spill

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UpInArms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 07:45 PM
Original message
Gravel beaches (still) trapping oil from 1989 Exxon spill
Source: Washington Post

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- An engineering professor has figured out why oil remains trapped along miles of gravel beaches more than 20 years after the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Prince William Sound.

An estimated 20,000 gallons of crude remain in Prince William Sound, even though oil remaining after the nearly 11-million-gallon spill had been expected to biodegrade and wash away within a few years.

The problem: The gravelly beaches of Prince William Sound are trapping the oil between two layers of rock, with larger rocks on top and finer gravel underneath, according to Michel C. Boufadel, chairman of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Temple University. His study appeared Sunday in Nature Geoscience's online publication and will be published in the journal later.

Boufadel found that water, which could have broken up and dissipated the oil, moved through the lower level of gravel up to 1,000 times slower than the top level.

<snip>

While the remaining oil likely remains somewhat locked up in the beaches, the spill's lingering effects are ongoing, Hagen said. Sea otters, sea ducks and some sea birds are producing an enzyme showing exposure to oil.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20...
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 07:57 PM
Response to Original message
1. So how much money has Exxon actually paid for this mess so far?
Edited on Sun Jan-17-10 08:03 PM by bemildred
I mean cash coughed up.
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UpInArms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 08:34 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. from wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill

V\In the case of Baker v. Exxon, an Anchorage jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages. The punitive damages amount was equal to a single year's profit by Exxon at that time.

Exxon appealed the ruling, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the original judge, Russel Holland, to reduce the punitive damages. On December 6, 2002, the judge announced that he had reduced the damages to $4 billion, which he concluded was justified by the facts of the case and was not grossly excessive. Exxon appealed again and the case returned to court to be considered in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling in a similar case, which caused Judge Holland to increase the punitive damages to $4.5 billion, plus interest.

After more appeals, and oral arguments heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 27, 2006, the damages award was cut to $2.5 billion on December 22, 2006. The court cited recent Supreme Court rulings relative to limits on punitive damages.

Exxon appealed again. On May 23, 2007, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied ExxonMobil's request for a third hearing and let stand its ruling that Exxon owes $2.5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.<15> On February 27, 2008, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for 90 minutes. Justice Samuel Alito, who at the time, owned between $100,000 and $250,000 in Exxon stock, recused himself from the case.<16> In a decision issued June 25, 2008, Justice David Souter issued the judgment of the court, vacating the $2.5 billion award and remanding the case back to a lower court, finding that the damages were excessive with respect to maritime common law. Exxon's actions were deemed "worse than negligent but less than malicious."<17> The judgment limits punitive damages to the compensatory damages, which for this case were calculated as $507.5 million.<18> Some lawmakers, such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, have decried the ruling as "another in a line of cases where this Supreme Court has misconstrued congressional intent to benefit large corporations."<19>

Exxon's official position is that punitive damages greater than $25 million are not justified because the spill resulted from an accident, and because Exxon spent an estimated $2 billion cleaning up the spill and a further $1 billion to settle related civil and criminal charges. Attorneys for the plaintiffs contended that Exxon bore responsibility for the accident because the company "put a drunk in charge of a tanker in Prince William Sound."<20>

Exxon recovered a significant portion of clean-up and legal expenses through insurance claims associated with the grounding of the Exxon Valdez.<21><22> Also, in 1991, Exxon made a quiet, separate financial settlement of damages with a group of seafood producers known as the Seattle Seven for the disaster's effect on the Alaskan seafood industry. The agreement granted $63.75 million to the Seattle Seven, but stipulated that the seafood companies would have to repay almost all of any punitive damages awarded in other civil proceedings. The $5 billion in punitive damages was awarded later, and the Seattle Seven's share could have been as high as $750 million if the damages award had held. Other plaintiffs have objected to this secret arrangement,<23> and when it came to light, Judge Holland ruled that Exxon should have told the jury at the start that an agreement had already been made, so the jury would know exactly how much Exxon would have to pay.<24>
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 08:38 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Good.
The USSC's concern for the Constitutional rights of corporations is again noted.
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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 11:52 PM
Response to Reply #1
6. not enough. they were buying tons of stuff and putting the receipts
on the record and dumping the stuff they bought to fix this on the beaches to rot. they also wrote it off on their taxes and got breaks out the wazoo due to a judge who wouldn't recuse himself. These people, all of them, will burn in hell some day.
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mbperrin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 08:51 PM
Response to Original message
4. This is why there needs to be a small change in corporate law.
Make the CEO criminally liable for all acts committed by the corporation with mandatory jail time, no possibility of parole.

Even a short sentence in the slammer (like 5 years, much less than for robbing a 7-11) seems to unnerve these bastards a bit.
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niyad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-17-10 10:22 PM
Response to Original message
5. planetgreen had an excellent documentary on this
black wave: the legacy of the exxon valdez http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/reel-impact/black-w...

absolutely must-see
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