The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this week to hear ExxonMobil’s appeal of the $2.5 billion in damages it was ordered to pay for the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. An Alaskan jury in 1994 originally ordered the company to pay $5 billion in damages, but the amount was cut in half by an appeals court last December. Now the $39.5-billion-a-year company is hoping the Supremes will further reduce or eliminate the damage award, arguing it’s already paid a few billion in cleanup costs and that it was the ship captain’s fault anyway. For its part, the court will review the case based on whether the Clean Water Act and maritime laws allow for punitive damages, and if so, whether the award is excessive. The case could end in a tie when it’s decided next year since Justice Samuel Alito will not take part in the case (he owns over $100,000 in Exxon stock). The Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil, polluting about 1,200 miles of Alaskan coastline.

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