by Greg Palast
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Chicago Tribune (revised)
An earlier version of this report originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Photos by James Macalpine (1993)
Twenty years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles of Alaskan beaches, the company has yet to pay the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by the jury. And now they won’t have to. The Supreme Court today cut Exxon’s liability by 90% to half a billion. It’s so cheap, it’s like a permit to spill.
Exxon knew this would happen. Right after the spill, I was brought to Alaska by the Natives whose Prince William Sound islands, livelihoods, and their food source was contaminated by Exxon crude. My assignment: to investigate oil company frauds that led to to the disaster. There were plenty.
But before we brought charges, the Natives hoped to settle with the oil company, to receive just enough compensation to buy some boats and rebuild their island villages to withstand what would be a decade of trying to survive in a polluted ecological death zone.
In San Diego, I met with Exxon’s US production chief, Otto Harrison, who said, “Admit it; the oil spill’s the best thing to happen” to the Natives.
His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave it and wait twenty years to get even the pennies. Exxon is immortal – but Natives die.
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