NONMARKET VALUATION AND THE COURTS: THE CASE OF THE "EXXON VALDEZ"
This paper examines a natural resource damages case, the Exxon Valdez, "and contrasts the use and acceptance of market and nonmarket valuation methods in two related sectors: commercial fishing and Alaska native subsistence use of fish and wildlife. Much economic literature focuses on how, in principle, one should value environmental injury. These principles and methods have been codified in the Department of Interior and National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration natural resource damage regulations that implement the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. However, these liability rules are fairly new, and thus little evidence exists on the acceptance of valuation methods by the courts and juries. In this regard, the" Exxon Valdez case is of particular interest because substantial resources were at stake and much of the case went all the way through to a jury verdict. The two major plaintiff classes-commercial fishermen and Alaska natives-are market and nonmarket versions, respectively, of otherwise fairly similar economic sectors. However, the court's acceptance of the "correct in principle" valuation methods appropriate to each sector was asymmetric. The court accepted as admissible the market valuation procedures (primarily "diminution in market price") used by the commercial fish experts but rejected the nonmarket valuation procedure applied to subsistence uses (a hedonic price model). Copyright 1997 Western Economic Association International.
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