The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Exxon Shipping v. Baker, significantly reducing the punitive damages for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, was a big victory for the oil company and a terrible blow for the fishermen and people of Alaska. However, there is a silver lining in the decision. While a narrow majority of the Supreme Court slashed Exxon’s liability for punitive damages, the Court unanimously rejected Exxon’s argument that the Clean Water Act limits the type and amount of damages which can be awarded by juries for oil spills under traditional principles of maritime law and common law. Exxon essentially tried to use the Clean Water Act as a shield to avoid full liability for its role in the oil spill disaster. Fortunately, the Supreme Court recognized that the Clean Water Act’s goals of protecting and restoring our nation’s waters would not be served by Exxon’s arguments. It may not be much consolation for Alaska’s fishermen, but it will be an important precedent for future cases.