A judge for the US District Court for the District of Alaska [official website] refused Monday to order Exxon Mobil [corporate website] to pay an additional $92 million in damages from the Exxon Valdez oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Under a 1991 settlement agreement, Exxon paid $900 million in civil damages. The US and Alaskan government sought in 2006 to reopen the settlement agreement [JURIST report], saying more money was needed to clean up the crude oil that was still tainting Prince William Sound. Environmental activist Rick Steiner had filed a motion seeking court intervention to bring the reopener process to a close. Judge H Russel Holland, who has presided over much of the litigation stemming from 1989 spill, found that the US and Alaskan governments appeared to be close to reaching an agreement [Reuters report] with Exxon Mobil, refusing to order the payment.
In 2009, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled that Exxon Mobil owes interest [JURIST report] on the more than $500 million in punitive damages awarded against it following the spill. The US Supreme Court [official website] declined to rule [JURIST report] on the issue the previous year, thus remanding it to the Ninth Circuit. In June 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 to reduce a punitive damages award [JURIST report] to be paid by Exxon from $2.5 billion to $500 million, but did not rule on the issue of interest. In December 2006, the Ninth Circuit reduced [JURIST report] Exxon's original $5 billion punitive damage award by more than $2 billion, ruling that the award was excessive in light of a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that punitive damages must be reasonable and proportionate to the harm incurred, and also considering Exxon's cleanup and compensation efforts. The Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound and contaminated about 1,300 miles of coastline.