A federal court judge has dismissed Exxon Corp.'s challenges to the $98 million settlement reached this summer between Alyeska Pipeline Co. and thousands of fishermen, Natives and others harmed by the 1989 Valdez oil spill. "This is very good news," said Dave Oesting, who represents commercial fishermen in the settlement. "We are very pleased."
Exxon officials did not return calls for comment. The corporation has 30 days to appeal Judge Russel Holland's decision, Oesting said.
If Exxon doesn't appeal and there are no other hitches, 18,000 to 20,000 victims should start receiving checks in a couple of months, according to plaintiffs' attorney Dave Oesting.
The exact amount each plaintiff will receive is based on a complicated, court-approved formula that is still being refined, Oesting said. It takes into consideration things like a fisherman's catch record.
Most of the settlement money $44.8 million will go to commercial fishermen; roughly $23 million will go to Natives and Native corporations; about $11 million will cover attorney fees; $6 million will go to landowners, $4 million to municipalities, and about $1 million to cannery workers. Others that will receive a portion of the settlement include aquaculture associations, area businesses, recreational users and seafood processors.
Alyeska Pipeline Co., along with Exxon Corp., was named in a massive lawsuit filed shortly after the 1989 spill. This past summer, Alyeska reached the out-of-court settlement with plaintiffs, but Exxon Corp. decided to take its part of the case to trial. Fearing the Alyeska agreement could hurt it, Exxon filed motions to block it.
Exxon challenged a part of the agreement that barred the oil company from seeking damages from the pipeline company if the oil company loses when it goes to trial in May. Judge Holland ruled in favor of Alyeska.
And Holland rejected an Exxon argument when he ruled that the Alyeska settlement will not affect payments to the same plaintiffs from the Trans- Alaska Pipeline Liability Fund. Exxon is required to reimburse the fund for any oil spill payments.
Also, Exxon had contested the Alyeska settlement saying any legal disputes between itself and Alyeska should be settled by an arbitrator, not by the federal court. Judge Holland rejected Exxon's argument.