The Eleventh Hour - Why we must not allow BP to settle out of court
They are calling it “the biggest environmental litigation in the country’s history.” And why shouldn’t they? It is the biggest environmental disaster in American history; in fact, the largest in the history of the oil industry - ever.
The trial, concerning the 2010 BP Deepwater Drilling Disaster, which will “settle government claims for clean-up costs, fines and compensation for economic losses,“ is presently set to begin on February 27 in New Orleans.
However, now it seems that the Department of Justice is poised to offer a settlement to BP, with a rumored announcement day of Fat Tuesday.
Thinking beyond the possible insult-to-injury date, it makes sense that BP would wish to settle and move on. After all, little that BP has done over the last nearly 2 years has been more than in the protection of their bottom line.
As BP CEO Bob Dudley recently stated, “We have many people say, we are interested in investing in BP but not until all this is behind you,” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/feb/07/bp-steady-recovery-deepwa...).
University of Michigan Law School Professor, David Uhlman agrees, telling the Times Picayune “Making peace with the federal government is of enormous value to BP’s business model.”
Uhlman also predicts a settlement of $25 billion.
That’s the price tag, folks.
Here in America, as a foreign entity you can kill 11 men, injure 17 more, cause unprecedented ecological and economical destruction to 4 states, destroy hundreds of thousands of animals, take over the media, science and regional healthcare, decimate cultures, chemically poison thousands of people, and leave a big fat mess behind, for the same cost as one bank’s government bail out, (Wells Fargo 2009).
Heck, last year alone BP slammed a net profit of $25.7 billion. So much for the 2010 worry that BP might go into bankruptcy over the fiasco.
And according to a UPI.com article, state officials may actually be encouraging the idea, with the help of the DOJ and the administration.
Meanwhile, BP battles furiously to suppress evidence for the trial, including information regarding the BP Texas City explosion, employee compensations on the Deepwater Horizon that was directly tied to cost cutting and Tony Hayward’s deposition. In fact, just yesterday BP won the right to keep important relevant emails from being presented to the court.
The questions unasked are: Do those affected want a settlement? Is it in our, or the world’s, best interest to set an easy pay out as a precedence for future drilling disasters? And most importantly, how can any settlement be reached regarding the future, with so little information, assessment, or response to current needs?
In short, how will we know what magic number would be enough?
It is in the discovery phase of any trial that the truth has hope of being revealed, and any justice ever served was prepared on a plate of truth. With so many officials working to reach a settlement, perhaps that is the main reason the government and BP are so eager to settle. If the truth were ever revealed, the world would know that what is happening in the Gulf Of Mexico is no less than a human rights violation of epic proportion.
As I write this, not one of the President’s Oil Spill Commission’s recommendations have been put into affect. Not one piece of legislation has been enacted regarding drilling safety. Thousands have yet to be paid fairly or transparently by the GCCF. Not one state or federal health agency is responding to the minimally estimated 2,400 American citizens who are suffering from the toxic dispersant/oil cocktail sprayed in our waters or on our communities. Thirty-eight million acres of the Gulf is in the process of being opened to new oil leases. The RESTORE act, which would provide 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines to the Gulf, stagnates on the Hill. A repeated request for the enactment of a Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council is ignored. A wildlife mortality rate of some 10 times the norm, continues to wash lifeless corpses ashore. An impotent, non-funded, Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Task Force idles lamely, while their report serves as no more than a desktop paperweight.
And to top it off, those who have suffered the effects from the disaster have virtually no say in the negotiations surrounding the possible settlement.
Voiceless. We remain voiceless.
But then, really, what else is new? Has there ever been a time when the people of the Gulf Of Mexico could count on their government to act on their behalf, or in their best interest? With a history and present condition that includes the Katrina Cough, Blackwater, Cancer Alley, and an abundance of environmental justice communities, reparation has always seemed just beyond reach to most who live here.
And now, it seems that it is the eleventh hour for those who have been battling for justice for the Gulf Coast. Without a large public outcry on behalf of those affected, we will soon see the complete end of clean-up, along with little possibility of responsible action regarding the still very unknown future ecological and human health damages.
If ever there were a time for good people to make a stand, that time is now.
A great place to start is by educating yourself. The Sierra Club recently released a letter to the White House that can be found here:
In addition, check out the Gulf Restoration Network's petition, found here:
Over the next few days, there will be even more ways that you can help… pleased stay vigilant to those opportunities. And remember, although it is always darkest before the dawn, there is also always a dawn. Looking forward to hanging out with you, and enjoying the sunshine.
Cherri Foytlin is an oil worker's wife, mother of six, Louisiana resident and journalist whose family has been deeply impacted by the BP Oil Disaster and consequential moratorium on deep water drilling. She co-founded Gulf Change, blogs for www.BridgeTheGulfProject.org, and walked to Washington D.C. from New Orleans (1,243 miles) to call for action to stop the BP oil disaster. She has been a constant voice, speaking out to the Obama Administration's Gulf Oil Spill Commission, and in countless forms of media. Cherri will continue her fight for the industries, people, culture and wildlife of south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast "until we are made whole again."