The Supreme Court of India [official website] ruled [order, PDF] Monday that the ship formerly known as the Exxon Valdez [EPA backgrounder] may be dismantled at the country's biggest scrapyard. The two-judge panel headed by Altamas Kabir overruled [Bloomberg report] a May decision by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board [official website] denying the ship, now known as the Oriental Nicety, entry to the scrapyard in Alang on India's western coast. The order stipulates that Priya Blue Industries Pvt. [corporate website], which bought the Oriental Nicety for scrapping, will be responsible for disposing any toxic material found in the ship. An activist with ToxicsWatch Alliance [advocacy website], who approached the court in April to bar the ship's entry, maintains that the ship contains asbestos and heavy metals. Priya Blue Industries plans to bring the ship into the Alang scrapyard to be broken down this week, and estimates that the recycling process will take five months to complete.
The Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] into Prince William Sound and contaminated about 1,300 miles of coastline. In March 2011 the US District Court for the District of Alaska [official website] refused to order Exxon Mobil [corporate website] to pay an additional $92 million [JURIST report] in damages from the oil spill. 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.