82 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
cleanup technology, as oil spills are difficult to clean and recovery
rates are low.
4. Some oil spills may be inevitable.This awareness makes it
imperative that we work harder to establish environmental
safeguards that reduce the risks associated with oil production and
5. Legislation on liability and compensation is needed.
6. The United States should ratify the International Maritime
Organization 1984 Protocols. Expeditious ratification is essential to
ensure international agreement on responsibilities associated with
oil spills around the world.
7. Federal planning for oil spills must be improved.
8. Studies of the long-term environmental and health effects must be
undertaken expeditiously and carefully (Skinner, 1989).
On February 27, 1990, a federal grand jury in Anchorage indicted Exxon
and its shipping subsidiary on five criminal counts. Two felony charges were
based on the 1972 Ports and Waterways Safety Act and the Dangerous Cargo
Act; three misdemeanors were based on the Clean Water Act, the Refuse Act,
and the Migratory Bird Act. A settlement among Alaska, the federal govern-
ment, and Exxon was reached in October 8, 1991. Exxon entered guilty pleas
for violating provisions of these acts, paid a fine of $150 million, and settled
damage claims of $900 million. Of the $150 million fine, $125 million was
forgiven to Exxon for the company’s previous expenses and cooperation, thus
bringing the total settlement to $1.025 billion (Keeble, 1999).
Additionally, on September 14, 1994, an Anchorage jury awarded
$5 billion in punitive damages to hundreds of members of a class law-
suit against Exxon. Exxon appealed to delay payments for a decade.
On January 24, 2004, federal judge Russell Holland directed ExxonMobil
to pay $4.5 billion in punitive damages and approximately $2.25 billion
in interest; Exxon is in the process of appealing this decision (DWT,
The Exxon Valdez oil spill was prosecuted under general maritime law.
As a direct result of the oil spill, Congress enacted the Oil Pollution Act of
1990. This Act appears in Title 33, Chapter 40, of the United States Code
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1989: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 83
(U.S.C.). The United States Code is the codification by subject matter of
the general and permanent laws of the United States. Section 2702
(33U.S.C.§2702) of Chapter 40 is given below:
Title 33 Subchapter I—Oil Pollution Liability and Compensation
Sec. 2702—Elements of Liability
(a) In general
Notwithstanding any other provision or rule of law, and subject
to the provisions of this Act, each responsible party for a vessel
or a facility from which oil is discharged, or which poses the
substantial threat of a discharge of oil, into or upon the
navigable waters or adjoining shorelines or the exclusive
economic zone is liable for the removal costs and damages
specified in subsection (b) of this section that result from such
(b) Covered removal costs and damages
(1) Removal costs
The removal costs referred to in subsection (a) of this
section are—
(A) all removal costs incurred by the United States, a State,
or an Indian tribe under subsection (c), (d), (e), or (l)
of section 1321 of this title, under the Intervention on
the High Seas Act (33 U.S.C. 1471 et seq.), or under
State law; and
(B) any removal costs incurred by any person for acts taken
by the person which are consistent with the National
Contingency Plan.
(2) Damages
The damages referred to in subsection (a) of this section are
the following:
(A) Natural resources
Damages for injury to, destruction of, loss of, or loss of
use of, natural resources, including the reasonable costs
of assessing the damage, which shall be recoverable by
a United States trustee, a State trustee, an Indian tribe
trustee, or a foreign trustee.
(B) Real or personal property
Damages for injury to, or economic losses resulting from
destruction of, real or personal property, which shall be
recoverable by a claimant who owns or leases that
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