Last year, Americans watched in horror as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and oil gushed from the ruptured wellhead for three months. The explosion took the lives of 11 rig workers, and the millions of barrels of crude oil that spilled into the waters of the Gulf disrupted the livelihoods of residents who depend on the Gulf ecosystem for their income and survival.
The Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound, Alaska, is a haunting predecessor to the calamity in the Gulf. After almost 20 years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court cut down the punitive damages awarded by an Alaska jury by 90 percent and created a new rule limiting citizens' ability to recover punitive damages in maritime cases.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has introduced the Maritime Liability Fairness Act (S. 592), a bill that restore the law to where it was three years ago by removing the unfair cap set by the Supreme Court on liability awards for victims of catastrophes like the BP oil spill and Exxon Valdez. Tell your senators to support this bill!
Gulf residents must make difficult choices when seeking compensation and face a long and uncertain road to justice and recovery. Even one year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the fight for justice is often slow, frustrating, and tilted in favor of the corporate interests over individual rights. The Supreme Court has tilted that balance even more in favor of pro-business interests, but Congress can set things right by restoring the ability of victims to be fairly compensated when their lives and livelihoods are wrecked by corporate irresponsibility.
After the Supreme Court took Exxon's side, the oil giant posted a record $11 billion quarterly profit. Exxon didn't need the Court's help, but Gulf Coast residents struggling to get by need ours – as will future victims of offshore oil spills.
Write to your senators today and urge them to support the Maritime Liability Fairness Act. Tell them how important it is that citizens be allowed to hold corporations accountable for disasters like the Deepwater Horizon spill!