Palin’s Exxon Valdez account draws guffaws
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Sarah Palin’s new memoir, “Going Rogue,” already has been strongly criticized by John McCain’s aides for her account as a vice presidential candidate on the ticket with him in their unsuccessful 2008 race for the White House.
Now, add Alaskan experts who were involved in the case over the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster saying her account over her role in the litigation is distorted for a number of reasons.
“It took years for Alaska to achieve victory. As governor, I directed our attorney general to write an amicus brief in the case, and, thanks to Alaska’s able attorneys arguing in front of the highest court in the land, in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the people,” she writes in her book. “Finally, Alaskans could recover some of their losses.”
But Palin’s claims of victory for the plaintiffs and of playing a role in achieving that victory are highly distorted, said the chief attorney for the approximately 32,000 plaintiffs that sued Exxon over damages from the worst oil-tanker spill in U.S. waters.
“That is the most cockamamie bullshit,” said Dave Oesting of Anchorage, lead plaintiff attorney in the private litigants’ civil case against Exxon and its successor, Exxon Mobil Corp. “She didn’t have a damn thing to do with it, and she didn’t know what it was about.”
While the Supreme Court in its June 25, 2008 decision did uphold the right of the plaintiffs to receive some punitive damages, it slashed the award dramatically. The Supreme Court ordered that punitive damages be no more than $507.5 million, down from the $2.5 billion ordered by a U.S. appeals court and the jury’s original verdict of $5 billion.
While the plaintiffs did manage to salvage some punitive damages, the result was hardly a win, said Riki Ott, a scientist, environmental activist and longtime commercial fisherman from the Prince William Sound town of Cordova.
“It’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to the legal system. It’s a disgrace to intellectual honesty to call 10 cents on the dollar a win for Alaskans,” said Ott, who has written a book about the spill and the failure of the justice system to address it.
At the time of the Supreme Court ruling, even Palin described it as a bitter disappointment to Alaskans rather than a victory. In an interview with Reuters, she said the state will tighten its oversight of the oil industry in response. “Exxon will know that we’re very disappointed in this ruling,” she said then.
– Photo credit: Reuters/Mike Blake (workers clean up from the Exxon spill.)