Image: Valdez spill
AP file
The Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989, spilling more than 270,000 barrels of crude oil. The slick covered roughly 1,500 miles of Alaskan coastline.
updated 5/23/2007 6:08:36 PM ET 2007-05-23T22:08:36

A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected Exxon Mobil Corp.'s request for it to reconsider its earlier decision that cut nearly in half a $4.5 billion jury award punishing the company for the 1989 Valdez oil spill that fouled 1,500 miles of Alaskan coastline.

In December, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reduced the punitive damage award to $2.5 billion in a case that began with a 1994 decision by an Anchorage jury siding with 34,000 fishermen and other Alaskans. The plaintiffs said they were hurt when Exxon's oil tanker struck a charted reef and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil.

"It is time for this protracted litigation to end," Chief Judge Mary Schroeder and Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote in a 2-1 decision in December after the case reached the appeals court for the third time.

An Exxon spokesman said the company, which still sees the award as excessive, would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The 9th Circuit court ruling now allows the case to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where we believe the case should be decided," Exxon spokesman Mark Boudreaux said.

Lawyers for the fishermen could not be immediately reached Wednesday.

In 1994, a federal jury found that Exxon and Valdez captain Joseph Hazelwood acted recklessly, which opened the company to punitive damages.

The disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history, prompted Congress in 1990 to pass a law banning single-hulled tankers like the Valdez from domestic waters by 2015.

The case is Baker v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 04-35182.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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