Legislature(2005 - 2006)SENATE FINANCE 532
03/30/2005 01:00 PM RESOURCES
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HJR 9-URGE CONGRESS HONOR EXXON VALDEZ JUDGMENT CO-CHAIR SAMUELS announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 9, Urging the United States Congress to honor the process and judgment of the federal courts in the case of the Exxon Valdez disaster and to refrain from enacting legislation that would affect the outcome of the courts' resolution of the case. SUZANNE HANCOCK, Staff to Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, Alaska State Legislature, said HJR 9 urges the United States Congress to respect the judicial process and refrain from any action to alter the punitive damage awards to more than 32,000 plaintiffs as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. She noted that after 16 years, the plaintiffs are still waiting for resolution of the lawsuit. When Congress considered the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, Exxon Mobil Corporation sought an amendment that would have substantially reduced the punitive damages that would have been paid from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. This resolution allows the courts to determine the matter, she concluded. 1:10:38 PM MATT JAMIN, Attorney for the Plaintiffs, Kodiak, said Congress is passing bills very quickly without public input, and current members of Congress are concerned about class action and tort litigation. It is possible, he said, that legislation could retroactively alter the Exxon Valdez punitive award case. He said he supports the resolution. 1:12:22 PM MICHAEL MAXWELL, Commercial Fisherman, Cordova, said he has fished and repaired nets since he was a child. "Our lives were drastically changed when the Exxon Valdez ran aground." He noted the Prince William Sound herring fisheries were "totally wiped out," losing a huge portion of his livelihood. "Fisherman who had $500,000 boats sold them for pennies on the dollar," he added. In Cordova there are $30,000 nets stacked up and unused. He said he has lost health insurance and has many medical problems. The community had a fundraising benefit to help pay for his medical needs. The spill took livelihoods away from many, and he asked, "Where is the help from our politicians and government? Our court system has failed us." He suggested forbidding Exxon from drilling on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "How about laws quadrupling verdicts of large corporations for using their great influence to stifle court proceedings?" he asked, "Where's the help?" He accused the legislature of doing nothing. "While Exxon makes millions, we go broke," he said. "You people are all in Exxon's pockets," he said. His daughter was 2-years-old when the spill happened, and she will graduate from high school this spring, he noted. "My biggest dream was to send her to a good school, and, hopefully, one of these days I will be able to do it. Please help us," he concluded. 1:16:36 PM ROXY ESTES, Cordova, said the Exxon Valdez oil spill destroyed her life, and forced her children to move away. She said putting a cap on damage awards is ludicrous. "The damage done is beyond words." Big oil has had their way, she said, and it bulldozed right over locals with no one in the political arena willing to stand up for them. No one has been held accountable for the lives destroyed, she said. She stated, "Exxon's excellent p.r. campaign has been enormously successful. Everyone worldwide thinks Prince William Sound is fine. It is not. It probably never will be again." Elected officials need to represent the people who put them in office, she added. "Stand up for the little guy." 1:18:41 PM DOLLIE SCOTT, Cordova, said herring, crab and everything that was fished has gone downhill. She said if the damage claims aren't settled, it is an invitation to do it again. She said all the fishermen fought against having the pipeline come out of Valdez. She said the community could have lived with an accident due to a storm, but "it was a drunken accident." 1:19:54 PM MICHAEL SCOTT, Fisherman, Cordova, said people think that Exxon has paid all that is due, "but nothing has been paid to the fisherman." He suggested that they pay before they can do business in the state. 1:20:57 PM DIANE PLATT, Cordova District Fishermen United, said her organization represents over 900 commercial fishermen in area (E). She noted that many of them have been devastated by the oil spill, and she encourages any attempt to get the plaintiffs the settlements they have been waiting for. 1:21:37 PM STEVE SMITH, Commercial Fisherman, Cordova, said half of his income was from herring fishing, which is now gone. He noted that nothing indicates it is coming back. He said the case has been going on longer than is reasonable. "Exxon has a lot of money; they don't mind spending it on their attorneys, and they're very reluctant to go ahead and pay the bill that the courts and juries have deemed we have coming." He concluded that justice delayed is not really justice. 1:22:41 PM JERRY MCCUNE, United Fishermen of Alaska, Juneau, said there have been several attempts by Exxon to get legislation to free them of punitive damages. "They're on constant watch in Washington D.C.," he said. The resolution urges Congress not to allow any legislation to get Exxon out of their duty. 1:23:47 PM REPRESENTATIVE ELKINS moved to pass HJR 9 from committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, HJR 9 passed from the House Resources Standing Committee.