The United States of America decided to give Planet Earth an early Christmas present yesterday by hammering BP and five other businesses involved in the Gulf Oil Spill with a multi-billion dollar civil lawsuit. In addition to restoring my faith in humanity, President Obama and others in his administration have set a precedent for corporate social responsibility which will not soon be forgotten – by the public and polluters alike.
The legal reasoning behind the lawsuit is that BP and other parties involved failed to make use of the safest drilling technology while monitoring the underwater well. The oil spill in question not only dumped nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the ocean over a period of three months, it also took the lives of 11 men who were stationed on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig at the time of the explosion.
When the U.S. Attorney General and representative for the Environmental Protection Agency announced the lawsuit, they assured the public that the corporations whose actions had such devastating results would be held accountable. Although no exact dollar figure was placed on the suit, under the Clean Water Act they can be charged up to $1,100 per barrel spilled. Assuming the maximum fine is applied (and really, why shouldn’t it be?), the cost under the Clean Water Act alone will be nearly $5.4 billion. This, and whatever other charges are laid against the polluters, will be in addition to the $40 billion BP has already set aside for the clean-up. Some analysts expect their total payout to near a whopping $60 billion.
The other five businesses caught in the lawsuit are Anadarko, Transocean, MOEX Offshore LLC and QBE Underwriting Ltd. Although they will likely not be hit as hard as BP, they all had a role to play in the event that occurred this past summer, and will all be held accountable for their actions (or lack thereof).
Since the ‘spill’ in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama Administration has allowed drilling to commence in deepwater areas, but this lawsuit shows that polluters and businesses who do not take environmental protection seriously will be treated with more than a slap on the wrist when they screw up. With this lawsuit, BP will continue to suffer financially for many years to come, and will be an example to other corporations of what not to do when your business is working in sensitive ecological areas.
What do you think about the lawsuit? Is there more that could be done to punish BP for the Gulf Oil Spill and Deepwater Horizon event?
Banner photo by Charlie Riedel