Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another View

Our friend Dana came over for supper tonight; Rich wasn't up to it so we prepared and delivered a take-out plate for him to enjoy. Tomorrow night we're going to show the captain and crew of the sailing vessel Berrimilla some Unalaska hospitality and hear how their voyage from Australia to England via the Northwest passage has gone so far.

These are different views of those old WW II wooden pipes in the valley - you can see in the bottom photo they are constructed like barrels. Must either be because of better water quality through non-metallic piping, or a war-time shortage of metal - anyone have any ideas?

The Supreme Court delivered their decision today on the Exxon Valdez case of which I was a plaintiff, along with 32,000 others. By reducing the punitive damage award from 2.5 billion to 507.5 million (roughly a billion with interest charges) the court has sent a strong message regarding what they viewed as excessive damage awards. You can read a copy of the full Supreme Court decision here.

As for my thoughts, that is tough to describe. To see the original award in 1994 of 5 billion reduced to 2.5 billion and now 507.5 million has been a tough pill but I also remember those years on the deck of a salmon boat, the first set of the day, jumpers every where and the radio crackling with excitement as we await the 6 am start to lay out our 900 feet of gill net. To see salmon hitting the gear, splashing in the sunlight, bright as new dimes. Picking the salmon from the gear and layering them carefully with ice in brailers - it had a sense of importance, we were feeding people.

Years later I'm no longer standing on the deck of the boat but I'm on the edge of the world, still working in the commercial fishing business, still feeding people, witnessing the last great sustainable fishery in the world, the Bering Sea pollock harvest. Sure, we handle cod and crab but it is pollock up here that pays the bills, and it still comes down to a boat and a net.

When I was on a salmon boat, when those salmon were hitting the gear and the boat was running well I would have done the job for nothing, yet I got compensatory checks for the Valdez spill then, and now so many years later the issue is laid to bed with punitive award checks finally being paid some time in the next 90 to 120 days. How does any group of people put a price on what happened when a drunk assumes control of a super tanker?

Further more, why am I entitled to money just by virtue of working on a salmon boat in the "affected years"? Members of my family own Exxon stock, indirectly so do I - at a 42% gain in 2007 it's a no-brainer as an investment. Is it a zero sum game where the punitive award comes out of other pockets? Am I a hypocrite for even being in the lawsuit?

Anyways, it's late and Chico is letting me know I'm overdue for bed. I'm not sure I have a good answer for this one . . . .


Jennifer McKenzie said...

I don't think there is an answer but your perspective on it is fascinating.
Exxon paid a high price for that spill and not just in money. They've been seared into the memories of a generation.
It's hard to believe it's finally coming to an end.

Anonymous said...

It seems like forever and also like yesterday, the Valdez thing. Mind-boggling.
Those pipes are very cool. Nice photos. I found this:
If you scroll halfway down the page, it talks about WWII conservation of steel and such. Looks like these would be called "wood stave" pipes.
Have fun with Alex, Corrie, and Kimbra! Thanks for hosting them. Be sure to document the event for those of us following along at home. Would love to see more pics!

pantxo petate said...

The answer is very simple -according to Spiridon, a character from a Solzhenitsyn novel- the wolf is not guilty, the cannibal is.

AlaskaSteve said...

Jen - I think my view is that the spill was a kick in the groin to the entire planet and I'm not sure I feel like I deserve special consideration. Carla - absolutely brilliant, you've cracked the case, your research is spot-on, thanks for passing that along. I sure have enjoyed meeting your brother, he and I are a bit like kindred spirits in some ways, though we don't look like it side by side, you have to look inside our hearts. Pantxo, amazing quote that sums up so much. Of sourse now I'll have to tead the novel, I hope it has been translated . . . thanks everyone for your insights and readership - steve

Anonymous said...

Hehe, not my brother, but a marvelous friend. I'm glad you enjoyed Alex's visit. He has a way of leaving an imprint on your heart in a very short span of time.Carla