Photo: eschipul, Flickr, CC BY-SA
To all those who've voiced concern that the federal government is just being too hard on poor ol' BP (here's looking at you Rep. Barton), perhaps you should take note of the following: There's a reason that BP needs to be held accountable for considerable damage its caused. It's called gross negligence, and not just in beginning a deep-water drilling operation it had no contingency plan for -- but also in cases like that its Texas oil refinery, where safety protocol was treated like a joke, and subsequently, a 2005 explosion left 15 dead. BP has now agreed to pay a record $50 million for its safety violations. The AP has the story:
Beleaguered oil giant BP has agreed to pay a record $50 million fine for failing to correct safety hazards at its Texas City oil refinery after a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday it is still working to collect another $30 million for other penalties that the company is contesting.Also noteworthy in this story is the fact that the initial amount OSHA fined BP was $87 million -- and BP first contested the entire amount. But seeing as how the company had racked up literally hundreds of safety violations, it agreed to pay $50 million. OSHA is still pursuing $30 million more.
While the fines pale compared to the billions BP is committed to paying out for damages caused by the massive oil spill at its well in the Gulf of Mexico, it stands as the largest penalty issued in OSHA's history.
Using this as precedent -- and the long history of oil companies weaseling out of, holding up through litigation, or shirking fines for their spills, pollution, and accidents as well (just look at the history of Exxon's punitive damages for the Valdez spill) -- it's reasonable to expect that BP will fight tooth and nail to elude full financial responsibility for its much bigger disaster.
That's why it was so important that the $20 billion escrow fund be secured, and remains important that the meager $75 million liability cap be removed from current US law. BP can and will attempt to whittle down its debts as much as it possibly can.
More on the BP Gulf Spill
$20 Billion BP Spill Fund Finalized, But 40,000 Claims Still Ignored
BP Spill Oil Already Entering the Gulf Food Chain
Worst Damage From the BP Spill May be Done in the Deep Sea