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Sarah Palin emails: Exxon's stalling tactics called 'outrageous'

June 11, 2011|By Kim Murphy
  • The Exxon Valdez spill in March 1989 led to cleanup operations such as this one near the southwest end of Prince William Sound off Alaska.
The Exxon Valdez spill in March 1989 led to cleanup operations such as this… (Chris Wilkins / AFP/Getty…)

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.

RELATED: Read the Palin emails

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.

"So it continues…It is no wonder people hate attorneys," Colberg wrote.

Palin punched in a quick response on her BlackBerry: "Outrageous. Unbelievable!" she said. "Glad we have one attorney most folks can like though."

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