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Excerpt: "In a rational world, the Deepwater Horizon horror would have been another reminder of the imperative of a rapid transition from dirty fuels to the clean energy sources of the future. Unfortunately, the power of money is having more sway over policy than the power of common sense."

Fire boats battle a fire at the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. (photo: US Coast Guard via Getty Images)
Fire boats battle a fire at the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. (photo: US Coast Guard via Getty Images)



The Unlearned Lessons of the BP Gulf Disaster

By Robert Weissman, Common Dreams

21 April 12

 

he BP disaster reminded the American people about some essential truths relating to corporate behavior, the need for regulatory controls over corporations, the need for effective sanctions.Eleven people died when BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, causing the worst oil spill in US history. (Photograph: AFP/Getty Images)

The BP disaster taught us many things: Giant corporations cannot be trusted to behave responsibly, and have the ability to inflict massive damage on people and the environment. We need strong regulatory controls to curb corporate wrongdoing. We need tough penalties to punish corporate wrongdoers. There is no way to do deepwater oil drilling safely. And it is vital that citizens harmed by corporate wrongdoers maintain the right to sue to recover their losses.

Unfortunately, Congress and the Obama administration have refused to learn the lessons from the BP disaster:

1. BP's reckless actions and inactions caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster - a reminder that corporations cannot be trusted to police their own activities.

BP made a conscious decision not to install a $500,000 safety device that could have prevented the blowout. BP pressured its contractors to skirt safety measures, and those contractors made multiple mistakes leading up to the disaster.

The lesson that corporations can't be trusted to police themselves should be blindingly obvious. Yet the Obama administration is now proposing to take government inspectors out of poultry processing plants - and give Big Chicken responsibility for ensuring poultry safety.

2. Strong regulatory controls over corporate activity are necessary to ensure health, safety and planetary well-being.

To its credit, the Obama administration acknowledged that the pre-BP disaster oil drilling regulator - the Minerals Management Service, probably the most compromised regulatory agency in Washington - couldn't be reformed, specifically because it had the duty both to collect oil royalties and regulate oil drilling. It split the agency apart, creating the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOE) to regulate drilling. But Congress has failed to ratify the change in law, which means it could easily be undone by subsequent administrations.

Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that would effectively make it impossible for BOE - or any other regulatory agency - to issue new regulations.

In a rational world, the Deepwater Horizon horror would have been another reminder of the imperative of a rapid transition from dirty fuels to the clean energy sources of the future. Unfortunately, the power of money is having more sway over policy than the power of common sense.

3. We need tough penalties to curb corporate wrongdoing.

The Obama administration still has not issued criminal or civil charges against BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The longer it waits, the more removed we are from swift justice, the less the penalties will serve a broad deterrent effect. And there is some reason to be concerned about whether the administration will require BP to plead guilty to criminal (as opposed to civil) charges.

Remarkably, the administration continues to do business with BP, with key officials refusing to invoke their authority to "debar" BP from government contracts. BP is one of the Pentagon's largest fuel suppliers.

Too much forgotten in the saga of watching oil flow into the ocean for months is that 11 workers died from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Reckless corporate activity that causes workers to die should routinely be criminally prosecuted, but such prosecutions are instead the very infrequent exception. We need legislation - as proposed by Representative John Conyers, HR 322 - establishing that it is a crime for corporations to recklessly endanger the lives of workers or consumers.

4. Deepwater drilling disasters are inevitable.

When it comes to energy policy, the real lesson from the BP disaster was that deepwater drilling will inevitably lead to catastrophic spills and blowouts. The drilling technology has simply far surpassed control technologies. Since the predictable catastrophes are unacceptable, there is a good argument that deepwater drilling itself should not permitted at all. At minimum, any company undertaking a deepwater drilling project should be exposed to unlimited liability for any damage it causes; it should be required to have a spotless, company-wide safety record as a condition of receiving a lease; and it should have a well-funded, proven disaster response plan in place.

In a rational world, the Deepwater Horizon horror would have been another reminder of the imperative of a rapid transition from dirty fuels to the clean energy sources of the future. Unfortunately, the power of money is having more sway over policy than the power of common sense.

After the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the administration imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf, but it was soon lifted, and deepwater drilling in the Gulf is proceeding apace. On the broader transition away from dirty energy, the administration has adopted important rules to improve auto fuel efficiency, but we are far off course if we are to avert the worst harms from catastrophic climate change.

5. Victims of corporate wrongdoing deserve their day in court.

Under political pressure, BP established a claims fund to compensate victims of the oil disaster. But if victims hadn't maintained the right to sue BP in court, there's no good reason to expect they would have received adequate compensation.

Right now, however, Congressional Republicans are working to shrink the rights of victims of wrongdoing, as they aim to restrict rights of victims of medical malpractice. A House-passed bill would shield nursing homes, hospitals, insurance companies, physicians and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers from legal accountability for any misconduct.

 

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+1 # grouchy 2012-04-21 09:44
Hey folks, what the hell did we expect anyway? This outcome could have been predicted from the start. It certainly was my prediction. "GREED RULES!!"
 
 
+2 # KittatinyHawk 2012-04-21 09:52
One thing you Left Out...the BP Disaster is ongoing. Globules of oil ares still present in the water. Birds are still coated, having offspring that are not surviving. Fish are not fully come back so what are we eating> How safe is it, considering FDA has with EPA sold our American for tips.
Republicans have been shushing the messes their buddies create since before we were kids. That my Journalist friend is not something new, just now totally out of control. People do nothing.
BP has spent more money on PR and Advertising than it spent on actually cleaning up..read people. Tourism will live on but the residents see the mess, and are waiting on Promises from BP and our government that is not happening, won't happen.
How many of you have petitioned, called, marched...becau se they are looking to continue deep sea, the inevitable mess, drill. You cannot get any plainer text, and look the other way.

Pink Slime, E Coli, Salmonella doesn't scare you, your keep eating. Food from Japan and Asia doesn't scare you. Feeding your kids poison from Monsanto or Bayer ...probably use their products.

Ten years from now when your children, your grandchildren can't think, see, talk or perhaps live longer than ten years old...will you consider picking up a pen or phone? May not be able to,
Bon Apetit...
 
 
+1 # universlman 2012-04-21 21:50
The rush to exempt the Keystone pipeline of environmental review is all the proof we shoudln,t need that we never learned anything from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
 
 
+1 # What Now Toons 2012-04-22 09:24
"Giant corporations cannot be trusted to behave responsibly" These few words say it all. All this crazy deregulation is our road to ruin! We simply can't trust them not to spoil our beautiful planet.
Earth Day 2012!
www.whatnowtoons.com
Left of Center Independent Political Cartoons
 
 
-3 # amye 2012-04-22 10:39
As usual, this is some sick stuff on the part of republicans and unfortunately the Obummer Admin.!!
 

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