We at ExxonMobil appreciate concern expressed in the Oct. 4 editorial regarding people and businesses affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. However, your editorial contained a number of errors.
The 1989 Valdez oil spill was a tragic accident, which ExxonMobil deeply regrets. However, we immediately set out to clean up the oil, spending $2.2 billion and continuing the effort until 1992 when both the state of Alaska and the U.S. Coast Guard declared the cleanup complete.
Exxon voluntarily began paying damage claims immediately to compensate those directly damaged by the spill. More than 11,000 people and businesses received more than $300 million in compensation. In fact, an Anchorage jury in 1994 agreed that Exxon's immediate and voluntary payments made whole those damaged by the spill and rejected the plaintiffs' claims for additional damages.
The term "spillionaires" does not refer to Exxon lawyers. Alaskans use the term to refer to the many fishermen who made hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, in excess of $1 million, working on the spill. For example, in the city of Cordova, Exxon paid more than $113 million to people in that fishing community.
Of that, close to $80 million was paid to Cordovans for their work on the cleanup and for hiring their boats. Another $25.6 million was paid to Cordovans for their lost income. In fact, spill-related payments and awards to individuals, communities, and Native corporations totaled more than $577 million in more than 20 communities.
The unprecedented $5 billion punitive damage judgment is meant solely to punish Exxon. Contrary to the public relations offensive staged by the plaintiffs' lawyers, it is not, in any way, an issue of compensation to the plaintiffs. It is not an outstanding claim that must be resolved. The appeals process has not delayed in any way payments to those actually damaged by the spill.
Tom Cirigliano, Irving, Texas
(Editor's note: The author is senior media relations representative for Exxon Mobil Corporation.)