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The Supreme Court - Capitalist Puppets Dancing on Exxon's Strings

By       Message Chuck Simpson     Permalink
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In Exxon Shipping v. Baker five Supreme Court Justices proved to be dancing puppets of corporations that control all branches of government.

The Court thumbed its nose at American citizens and granted "Get Out of Jail Free" cards to corporations to trash America, American citizens and their natural resources carte blanche in the single-minded pursuit of increased profits.

On June 25 in Exxon Shipping v. Baker, No. 07-219, the Supreme Court squarely avoided opportunities to rationally and impartially rule on two issues: Whether (1) a District Court finding that punitive damages that actually would be punitive were justified and appropriate for twelve years of blatant fraud committed by high-level management of Exxon, or (2) whether punitive damages previously imposed were excessive and could be negated by a court-written statute as being "not in the best interests of a well-functioning legal system".

On both issues, the Court ruled squarely against the interests of its human citizens, in order to provide more important corporate citizens with limits on and predictability of punishment for intentional, malicious wrongdoing undertaken for increased profits.

Justice Alito recused himself due to ownership of over $100,000 of Exxon stock. Five Justices ignored mountains of evidence and established case law supporting multiple rulings of the District and Circuit Courts, refused to honor the discretion of both the trial judge and the District Court of Appeals, overturned a jury's legitimate findings based on the evidence and in effect wrote a new statute based on an infantile attempt at statistical analysis and flimsy or non-existent excuses desperately grabbed from thin air.

In the process five Justices blatantly displayed themselves to be nothing more than obedient, fawning and dancing puppets of corporations that control America and all three branches of its government. The Court in effect thumbed their noses at American citizens and granted "Get Out of Jail Free" cards to corporations to trash America, American citizens and their natural resources carte blanche as required or desired in the single-minded pursuit of increased profits, resulting harm be damned but not punished.

In July 1957 a commercially viable oilfield was discovered in the Swanson River area of Alaska, within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Kenai was established by President Roosevelt in 1941 to protect habitat of a large population of moose and over 200 other species, including Bald Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, brown and black bear and wolves. Oilmen did not view the refuge's environmental sensitivity as a major stumbling block to development.

This discovery established that Alaska could support itself through privatized exploitation of natural resources without being a burden on the federal budget. Statehood quickly followed, in July 1958. As did the first Alaskan oil and gas lease sale in 1959 and initial commercial oil production from Swanson River in 1961. By June 1962, fifty wells had been drilled.

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Discovery of a major oil field at Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope was announced in March 1968 by Humble Oil, which was 98-percent owned by Standard Oil of New Jersey, now called Exxon Mobil. Oil was to be collected from over 3,300 wells and transported through a 48-inch diameter 800-mile long pipeline to a tanker terminal to be built at Valdez, at the head of Prince William Sound.

Environmentalists predicted disaster and filed a lawsuit in April 1970. Gasoline shortages occurred in the United States following the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. Congress responded with passage of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act in January 1974, which exempted the pipeline project from legal challenges on environmental grounds. Construction of the $8-billion Trans-Alaska Pipeline began in April 1974 and was completed in May 1977.

On March 24, 1989 the predicted disaster occurred. The oil tanker Exxon Valdez, owned by an Exxon subsidiary, ran aground at Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. About 10.8 million gallons of crude oil were released in the worst oil spill in history. A 3,000-square mile oil slick quickly resulted. Eventually, 11,000 square miles of ocean were covered with oil, stretching 470 miles southwest to the village of Chignik.

About 1,300 miles of shoreline were contaminated. Hundreds of thousands of birds and marine animals, including harbor seals, sea otters, river otters and orca whales died. Best estimates are that between 250,000 and 500,000 birds were killed, including 250 bald eagles.

Of particular importance to the Chugach Natives of the Valdez community, who depended on fishing for their livelihood, billions of pink salmon and herring eggs were destroyed.

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Damages to natural resources were amicably "resolved". In September 1991 Alaska and the federal government signed a consent decree with Exxon that released all present and future claims against Exxon for damages to natural resources, in return for Exxon's payment of $90 million annually for ten years. Exxon recovered a significant portion of the settlement through insurance claims and tax deductions, which in effect treated the disaster as a "legitimate business expense" to be paid by American taxpayers. Settlement allowed Exxon's CEO to boast: "

The company... voluntarily compensated more than 11,000 Alaskans and businesses.


The amount of Exxon's liability for future or then-undiscovered damages to natural resources was capped at $100 million. This cap was based on Exxon's claim that "the area recovered quickly" and that claims of severe, continuing environmental damage "are simply untrue". These claims in turn were based on "scientific" studies that Exxon contracted for, paid for and controlled. Local residents could not successfully counter these studies with their own investigations because they had no money. Because Exxon had destroyed their local economy and their livelihoods.

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The author is a retired professional civil and structural engineer, reformed attorney, fierce Progressive, policy junkie, vociferous reader, lifelong learner, aspiring writer and author of the crime-thriller "The Geronimo Manifesto". He is also a (more...)

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