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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica

 

Two years after a series of gambles and ill-advised decisions on a BP drilling project led to the largest accidental oil spill in United States history and the death of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, no one has been held accountable.

Sure, there have been about $8 billion in payouts and, in early March, the outlines of a civil agreement that will cost BP, the company ultimately responsible, another $7.8 billion in restitution to businesses and residents along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also true the company has paid at least $14 billion more in cleanup and other costs since the accident began on April 20, 2010, bringing the expense of this fiasco to about $30 billion for BP. These are huge numbers. But this is a huge and profitable corporation.

What is missing is the accountability that comes from real consequences: a criminal prosecution that holds responsible the individuals who gambled with the lives of BP’s contractors and the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. Only such an outcome can rebuild trust in an oil industry that asks for the public’s faith so that it can drill more along the nation’s coastlines. And perhaps only such an outcome can keep BP in line and can keep an accident like the Deepwater Horizon disaster from happening again.

BP has already tested the effectiveness of lesser consequences, and its track record proves that the most severe punishments the courts and the United States government have been willing to mete out amount to a slap on the wrist.

Prior to the gulf blowout, which spilled 200 million gallons of oil, BP was convicted of two felony environmental crimes and a misdemeanor: after it failed to report that its contractors were dumping toxic waste in Alaska in 1995; after its refinery in Texas City, Texas, exploded, killing 15, in 2005; and after it spilled more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil from a corroded pipeline onto the Alaskan tundra in 2006. In all, more than 30 people employed directly or indirectly by BP have died in connection with these and other recent accidents.

In at least two of those cases, the company had been warned of human and environmental dangers, deliberated the consequences and then ignored them, according to my reporting.

None of the upper-tier executives who managed BP — John Browne and Tony Hayward among them — were malicious. Their decisions, however, were driven by money. Neither their own sympathies nor the stark risks in their operations — corroding pipelines, dysfunctional safety valves, disarmed fire alarms and so on — could compete with the financial necessities of profit making.

Before the accident in Texas City, BP had declined to spend $150,000 to fix a part of the system that allowed gasoline to spew into the air and blow up. Documents show that the company had calculated the cost of a human life to be $10 million. Shortly before that disaster, a senior plant manager warned BP’s London headquarters that the plant was unsafe and a disaster was imminent. A report from early 2005 predicted that BP’s refinery would kill someone “within the next 12 to 18 months” unless it changed its practices.

Such explicit flirtation with deadly risk was undertaken as part of Mr. Browne’s effort while chief executive to expand BP as quickly as possible. Mr. Browne relentlessly cut costs, including on maintenance and safety. Then he hastily assembled a series of acquisitions and mergers between 1998 and 2001 that added tens of thousands of employees, blurred chains of command and wrought chaos on his operations. His methods — and the demands of Wall Street — became overly dependent on quantitative measures of success at the expense of environmental and human risk.

  • What do you expect… It’s just like the “Credit-Swap Foreclosure” mess that ruined millions of Middle Class lives. The 1% don’t care and Obama can’t take on Big Money Corporations and their “good ol’ boy” network alone!

  • Ed

    The whole philosophy of capitalism is that people do not count , thier lives are expendable.

  • If corporations are “people” then shouldn’t BP be prosecuted for at least manslaughter? They can’t just be considered people when forking out cash to politicians. If they are to be considered as people then they must face all the same consequences as individuals do.

  • So in other words, they kill 11 people, wipe out an entire region of the U.S. economically and the “punishment” is 1 year’s PROFIT?

  • why is it that we have so many BP owners that are from foreign countries, like Pakistan, or Jordan? Is there a reason, becuz I know that they are franchised and it is evident that they have polarized are bidding system on those franchises along time passed. On record there are many Americans who wanted some of those BP gas stations but did not get approved. But a foreigner did? Come on folks this whole thing is a myriad of trouble and it is out of our hands it is now in the preview of the Bureaucrats and that means Foreigners. We are largely owned becuz of the FED system with the money by the Foreign governments. it is time to revolt and Vote against all the congress members and the White House, this election, They never want to talk about the ECO System anymore and no progress with jobs they are trying to wage a War.

  • War is the only remedy this White House and his cronies see to profit from and create more jobs. Of course strap on weapons and send our kids to war. That is not the answer but if there is a war they should start with the white house and congress and vote against this rotten government who of which has no compassion for the people at all. Take away their paychecks by impeaching them all of which who are with the foreigner New World Order with this UN CRAPOLA.

  • jkoller

    I favor severe fines and consequences, all their profits escrowed until all are made whole.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    This is a surprise? You know exactly what BP is stalling for…A Republican president win in 2012 so they can stick it to American taxpayers just like Exxon did when Bush dumped 50% of the Valdez spill on taxpayers in 2007. All Exxon needed was to wait out the 20 years until they got the president who’d kiss up and allow them to get away with the full force of their culpability.

    Let’s see now…RoMONEY, a billionaire wins in 2012 and his first act as president will be to dump 50% of BP’s spill on taxpayers. Who’d think RoMONEY wouldn’t do that as deeply embedded as he is in the Corporate America Welfare state?

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Put a billionaire in the White House and see how little human life will be a consideration when pitted against corporations. So now you are seeing just how embedded corporations are in your government. Government was NEVER intended to allow corporations the same rights as people. Government is supposed to regulate the inanimate business corporations are now and always will be. The day you see a corporation walk into a voting booth and pull that lever, then and only then do they have the same rights as American votes.

    Of course the hotchas of the Corporate America welfare state want a bigger share of government influence. How else can they make taxpayers their hostages paying for everything from CEO income tax breaks and cuts and corporations landfills of tax loopholes that reduce all of their taxes and force the 99% to fill in what’s lost from all those cuts.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Miracles…Nice try. But who was president when we needlessly marched into an imperial nation like Iraq? Who was president when we entered Afghanistan? You can stop the “Blame it all on Obama” malarkey. No one is buying that anymore.

    How about a little honest, common sense accountability from right wingers for a change?

  • BP Oil Spill is SUBOTAGE by USA REPUBLICAN because they need MONEY for ELECTION.