1,000 Days Late and Billions of Dollars Short

Tomorrow marks one thousand days since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, spewing millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. The oil spill devastated the Gulf’s economy, ecosystems, and wildlife all of which is still reeling from the catastrophe. So after one thousand days, I have to ask: has British Petroleum (BP) been held fully accountable for the disaster in the Gulf?

A photo of a struggling pelican coated with oil floating in the Gulf of Mexico now greets workers arriving at the Navy Archives Metro station, close to the Department of Justice’s Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters building.
Well, BP recently agreed to pay $4.5 billion in criminal fines and penalties – the largest ever criminal resolution in the United States. And in May 2012 BP agreed to pay up to $7.8 billion to private plaintiffs. But BP still faces upwards of $21 billion in civil Clean Water Act penalties. Furthermore, if BP paid the same per-gallon fines as Exxon did for the Valdez spill, its liability under the Oil Pollution Act would be in the range of $30 billion. That’s a total of up to $50 billion in civil fines and penalties.

We must hold BP accountable for their actions

For a corporation like BP – that has a net worth of about $81 billion and has reported earnings of $5.2 billion for the third quarter of 2012 (a 40% rise in earnings) – the statutory fines it faces for gross violations of the Clean Water Act are (please forgive the horrible pun) a drop in the bucket. It’s despicable that while BP just paid the largest criminal penalties in U.S. history, the amount was still about one billion dollars less than they earned last quarter alone!

What do teachers do to keep kids from repeatedly breaking class rules? They enforce the rules to the letter of the law. So what will adequately prevent corporations like BP from taking reckless shortcuts that harm the environment and ensure there is sufficient capital for environmental restoration?

Suuurvey says: make them pay! The responsible party must compensate the damaged interests (the Gulf resources and communities that were polluted). A robust settlement will deter future misconduct and simultaneously provide the critical investment necessary to repair and rebuild the Gulf.

B.P. = British Petroleum Better Pay

It’s encouraging to hear that the Department of Justice (DOJ) intends “to prove that BP was grossly negligent in causing the oil spill.” To walk the talk, that means DOJ must pursue the maximum penalties under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, so the Gulf can be healed.

Take ActionTake Action! Urge the Department of Justice to hold BP fully accountable for the oil spill. Stand with us, and support DOJ’s efforts to #makeBPpay!