Exxon agrees to pay out 75 percent of Valdez damages

SEATTLE Wed Aug 27, 2008 3:16am EDT

The Exxon Valdez is grounded on Bligh Reef in Alaska in this 1989 file photo. REUTERS/NOAA/Handout

The Exxon Valdez is grounded on Bligh Reef in Alaska in this 1989 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/NOAA/Handout

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil agreed to pay out 75 percent of a $507.5 million (276 million pounds) damages ruling to settle the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reported on Tuesday.

Citing both Exxon and the plaintiff's lawyer, the Anchorage Daily News said the oil giant will release about $383 million for distribution to the nearly 33,000 commercial fishermen and others who sued Exxon after the worst tanker crash in U.S. history.

Exxon Mobile took a $290 million charge in the second quarter to account for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that threw out an earlier $2.5 billion damages award against the company and lowered the award to $507.5 million.

The deal will allow fishermen and other plaintiffs to be paid a chunk of the damages as soon as October with a final payout schedule expected to be hammered out this week, the newspaper said.

The Exxon Valdez spilled some 34,000 tonnes of crude oil in the costliest accident of its kind. The clean up alone cost around $2.5 billion.

The two sides still disagree about whether Exxon owes interest on the $507 million award, which would bring the final figure to $1 billion, according to plaintiff's lawyers. There is also debate over another $70 million, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

David Oesting of Anchorage, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, and Exxon were not immediately available for comment.

While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the subject, the justices sent the case back to the lower court to handle the final settlement of the $507.5 million award, which the Court said was the maximum damages available to the plaintiffs.

(Reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi)

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