US settles criminal charges against BP for Gulf spill — is it enough?

First the news, then the views.

■ The U.S. government recently settled criminal charges against BP for the Gulf of Mexico disaster of 2010 that cost lives and damaged Gulf property, economic interests, and the ocean itself.  John posted dramatic exclusive photos of the rig on fire and sinking — you can see some of them below.

BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig fire

BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig fire, photo from DOE. More dramatic photos here.

Ring of Fire News has the report (my emphasis and paragraphing):

BP Settles To Resolve Criminal Charges

BP and the United States have announced an agreement to resolve all federal criminal charges against BP. In the agreement, BP agreed to pay a record fine of $4 billion and an additional $525 million to resolve federal securities violations.

As part of the agreement, BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges including eleven charges of manslaughter for each of the eleven men killed in the casualty, one charge pertaining to violations of the Clean Water Act, one charge pertaining to violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and one charge of Obstruction of Congress.

The Obstruction of Congress charge is in regards to BP’s admission that it misrepresented the amount of oil flowing from the Macondo well to members of Congress.  The obstruction charge has also resulted in the indictment of the BP executive who made the false statements to Congress. In addition, at least two other BP employees working on the rig have been indicted for their acts related to the interpretation of the negative pressure test and the tragic eleven deaths…

Click to read the rest, it’s a good report.

BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig fire

BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig fire. More dramatic photos here.

■ But was the settlement enough? Many say no. Here’s Public Citizen making that case:

We’re stunned. This settlement is pathetic. The $4 billion penalty is equivalent to just a fifth of the company’s 2011 profits.

The point of the criminal justice system is twofold: to punish and to deter. This does neither. It is a weak-tea punishment that provides zero deterrence to BP or other companies. Consider that after the 2005 Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 people, BP pleaded guilty to a criminal charge and paid a fine. Now, after a 2010 event that killed 11 people, BP is again pleading guilty and paying a fine. Zero deterrence.

Although the government is right to pursue manslaughter charges against two individuals BP employees, the settlement is inadequate to address BP’s repeated criminal conduct.

The government must impose more meaningful sanctions. Nothing in this settlement stops BP from continuing to get federal contracts and leases. BP will earn more in annual federal contracts than it will pay in penalties as a result of this. That’s appalling.

The two points made strongly here are key — the settlement must deter future wrong-doing; and BP must lose its federal contracts. As the writer said, the current settlement does neither.

BP is a climate criminal. Check the list — they’re way up there, number three on the criminals list and the fourth largest corporation in the world. They won’t stop killing us (literally) until we stop them first.

Speaking of killing, what’s the death penalty for corporations who kill? Me, I’d take away their charter. Poof; gone. Wanna bet that would get the attention of the rest?

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • http://twitter.com/haleiwaparis Pele Snodgrass

    Which is why corporations love the communist country of China. Because they can force their workers to do what they want. And trust me… they want to get rid of gov regulation in the US so that they can be free to enforce their own rules on American citizens here. It’s going to take protest after protest and standing together to get Congress to take action. It takes lots of internet posts. Once or twice isn’t enough. Keep putting posts on articles. I’d bet that the DOJ is reading all of this.

  • Hue-Man

    While the murderers at BP get off scot-free, this woman made the news in Texas today… “On Tuesday, jurors sentenced the 24-year-old woman to 80 years in prison for the death of one of the children…” http://www.theadvertiser.com/article/20121120/NEWS01/121120036/Woman-gets-80-years-deadly-Texas-day-care-fire-?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|

  • Naja pallida

    Sorry, but fining the world’s richest industry is all but pointless. Until someone, preferably several someones, are perp-walked and facing negligent homicide charges, we won’t even be at the start of “enough”. Then there’s the matter of Halliburton and Transocean. Where are their billion dollar fines? Last I heard Transocean was seeking a plea agreement – which is unacceptable on any level.

    Above all, where the hell is the proof that this won’t happen again? Where is the large investment R&D for new cleanup technologies? Their “new” spill plan that they’re submitting to get new drilling permits is exactly the same plan they had before Deepwater Horizon, just with the dates changed and ridiculous references to walruses being native to the Gulf of Mexico removed. ie, the exact same plan they had for the Ixtoc oil spill back in 1979. Almost nothing serious has changed with cleanup and spill prevention technology, yet the risks have increased exponentially with deep water, and distant arctic, drilling. It is only a matter of time before another major spill happens and we go through this discussion all over again.

  • hauksdottir

    Corporations are people. If *I* killed 11 people through greed and negligence, destroyed and poisoned a large chunk of fertile waters, and then had the temerity to lie to Congress, I wouldn’t be worried about future government contracts, I’d be worried about not getting shived by my fellow prisoners!

    Why aren’t these guys in jail? Especially yacht-boy!

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Considering the long-term damage they did to the Gulf and to the businesses that depended on fishing and shrimping, BP got off way too lightly.

  • A reader in Colorado

    Lower level people may well see the inside of a jail cell. Sacrificial lambs. It’s when lots of executives go to prison that people take notice.

  • A reader in Colorado

    There is a tool in the U.S. arsenal of laws called “debarment”.

    It effectively makes it administratively possible to withdraw permission for a company like BP to operate within U.S. territory, at all.

    The U.S. could have simply seized BP, for having systematically and continuously and deliberately flouted U.S. environmental law for decades, simply by forbidding them to operate at all, then seized their assets. Yes, BP was flouting U.S. environmental law, ignoring safety, and causing environmental calamities, long before Deepwater Horizon.

    Now, Ken Salazar is continuing to oversee the sale of NEW BP new oil leases, despite their having created a massive catastrophe in the Gulf that it will take decades for the Gulf to recover from, if it ever can

    For all this, 4 and a half billion dollars, less than one quarter’s worth of PROFITS? Where the damage caused by BP’s criminal negligence will be in the hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars?

  • lynchie

    Another slap on the wrist and a paltry fine, but sell some pot and get caught 3 times and you do life. Yeah it’s fair.

  • masaccio

    Good think BP isn’t a Texas corporation: lethal injection courtesy of Rich Perry.

  • Naja pallida

    Especially when Enbridge already has a very poor track record with addressing any and all of the above. They have had, literally, thousands of spills on their existing pipelines over the last decade or so. Giving them a more extensive pipeline, in even more remote territory, without anything new since the 1970s to address potential problems, is just inviting disaster.

  • milli2

    Unless someone goes to jail, it will never be enough. The threat of being locked in a cage is the only thing that will make them responsible.

  • Hue-Man

    I’ve been thinking about this in the context of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to Kitimat, BC. The corporation and its federal and Alberta government sponsors have repeated that it’s safe, safe, safe, and don’t worry yourself about earthquakes, landslides, oil tanker sinking, tsunamis, forest fires, human error, or anything else that would dump toxic bitumen into lakes and rivers and the ocean. Dangerous deep-water drilling in the Gulf is not dissimilar.

    As a condition of government approval, the board of directors and named senior corporate officers should have to agree to plead guilty to a crime with a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in the event of an environmental disaster. I would have more faith in the pre-construction planning if I knew that corporate executives who would otherwise be immune from prosecution had “skin in the game”.

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