Friday, November 16, 2012

BP Admits Crimes

British oil company BP on Thursday announced it will pay $4.5 billion in fines and ther payments to the government, and plead guilty to 14 criminal charges resulting from the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago. This sum includes $1.3 in criminal fines, breaking the record for criminal penalties in the country previously held by drug maker Pfizer, who was penalized to the tune of $1.2 billion in 2009 for marketing fraud related to pain medication.

The US Justice Department also filed criminal charges against three BP employees. Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine have been indicted with manslaughter for their involvement in the disaster that left 11 workers dead – alleging that they were negligent in supervising tests before the well blowout and explosion that destroyed the rig. Prosecutors also charged BP’s former vice president for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, David Rainey, with obstruction of Congress and making false statements about the rate at which oil was spilling from the well.

The April 20, 2010 explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig managed by BP not only caused eleven deaths but ravaged the Gulf shore by polluting it with 4.9 million barrels of crude oil in the worst spill ever to happen off of America and only brought under control after five months. [Up until that point, the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill was the most severe in US history, having resulted in a comparably meager 750,000 barrels polluting Prince William Sound, Alaska due to a tanker crash. In that case, Exxon settled with the US government for what would be only $1.8 billion by today’s standards].

BP is still subject to other claims, including billions of dollars in federal civil claims and claims for damages to natural resources. In particular, BP noted that the settlement does not resolve what is potentially the largest penalty related to the spill: fines under the Clean Water Act. The potential fine for the spill under the act is $1,100 to $4,300 a barrel spilled. That means the fine could be as much as $21 billion.

Even with these fines, the economic losses suffered by the locals can never be truly compensated, especially to the poor and working-class families whose homes, bodies, and lives were devastated because of BP’s criminal irresponsibility.

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