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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