ExxonMobil has long been Alaska’s most enduring villain, thanks to the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker accident that spilled at least 11 million gallons of oil, not to mention the years Exxon spent fighting devastated fishermen and others in court to avoid and delay paying damages.
Former Gov. Sarah Palin's emails show how much state officials shared in the general outrage over Exxon’s legal tactics. Having already held the case up in the courts for nearly two decades, winning reversal of billions of dollars in punitive damages by the U.S. Supreme Court, ExxonMobil lawyers in 2008 filed pleadings to avoid paying interest on the $507.5 million they'd avoided paying all those years—a total of about $470 million extra, in the end.
An appeals court later ruled Exxon did have to pay the interest, but at the time, the oil company was pulling out the stops again to fight it, and Talis Colberg, then Alaska’s Attorney General, shared highlights of the company’s legal argument in a contemptuous email to his boss.
The arguments are “certain to further enrage plaintiffs,” said Colberg, who said they included assertions that there was “no sound basis” to pay interest on the judgment, that all those damaged by the spill had been compensated “years ago,” and that Alaska spill victims had not won a clear-cut victory in court.