A person who receives a large settlement as compensation for an oil spill. Also: spill-ionaire.
Researchers now suspect that much of the most costly clean-up in history, the summers spent scrubbing individual beach stones and ‘rehabilitating’ otters, did little, if anything, to restore Prince William Sound—and may have hurt. . . .It did make humans feel better, however, and it did make a handful of the displaced fishermen and women who chartered their boats for cleanup for thousands of dollars a day into “spillionaires.”
—William Booth, “Spill’s Residue Still Sticks in Alaska’s Craw,” The Washington Post, March 23, 1999
Spills tend to erode whatever gains the industry may achieve in the public‘s eye, and can cost many thousands of dollars to clean up. A poor public image, and the perception that no claim against the industry is unreasonable, can turn successful claimants against the industry into “spillionaires.”
—Bruce McMichael, “Oil industry copes with environmental pressure,” Platt’s Oilgram New, April 18, 1994
It is a strange legacy that Joe Hazelwood has left Valdez.
He is both congratulated and condemned. There are a few who want to string him up. Others want to pay his legal bills.
Hazelwood brought riches to many people on the Prince William Sound. “Spillionaires,” they call themselves.
—“Captain is condemned, praised as he heads to trial,” St. Petersburg Times, January 28, 1990