Boo hoo — BP sheds crocodile tears as it seeks to duck responsibility for the Gulf


Every so often, I worry that I’ve lost my capacity to feel anger and outrage over the oily monster that is British Petroleum — but if there’s one thing that BP is very good at, it’s fueling…rage. Here on the Gulf Coast, we’ve been fighting for three years to make sure that BP — a massive multinational corporation that makes billions of dollars in profit on the backs of the world’s addiction to oil — pays for the massive devastation that took place after the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

If you’ve been paying attention for the past 37 months, I probably don’t need to spell out all the impacts for you. Fisherman and shrimpers returning to the docks with empty boats, seafood restaurateurs looking out on rows of empty tables, beachside motels devoid of guests, and most tragically, workers who signed on to help in the clean-up, only to be sickened by a massive dump of toxic chemicals. No, you can’t even put a price tag on the damage; it is irreparable. Still, with billions in the bank, BP is a criminal with capacity to make good for some of the financial wounds, if not for the emotional scars that will never heal.

Last fall, I argued — on this blog and before the judge — that the proposed $7.8 billion settlement between BP and small businesses and individuals on the Gulf was not sufficient, that — among other things — it failed to acknowledge the ongoing environmental devastation and that it overlooked the worst impacts on human health. And yet now, BP claims that it didn’t know what it was getting into when it signed off onto the deal, that its problem with Gulf compensation putting the firm at risk:

BP wants Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene over the escalating cost of compensating US companies for the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster in 2010.

BBC business editor Robert Peston has learned that BP feels its financial recovery is in jeopardy because the compensation system is being abused.

Abused? How so?

Malcolm Bracken, oil analyst from stockbrokers Redmayne Bentley, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the company failed to see the consequences of the settlement when it originally set aside the provisions.

He said: “The problem is they’ve written a blank cheque to the businesses of Louisiana and not asked them to prove causality, ie: ‘Was it the well spill that actually caused you problems at your business?’

“You can argue it is being abused, but that was the settlement they made and they are trying to wriggle out of it.”

Exactly. And yet BP has gone crying to the prime minister of England, claiming that the mounting costs have made the oil giant vulnerable for a takeover and begging Cameron even to plead for mercy at the G8 economic summit of western nations.

That’s preposterous — and not just because BP signed a legally binding settlement that could not be altered without the consent of all the parties. For thing, BP continues to rake in massive profits despite its cleanup costs in the Gulf, and the company has plenty of financial breathing room to compensate the many who have been harmed.

Beyond that, and this is the most important part — people are not abusing this settlement. What’s really happening is that BP is just now, after all this time, finally coming to understand the true cost of what its corporate recklessness did to the region, and that cost is simply staggering. Today, BP simply can’t handle the truth: That its settlement with the people and businesses of the Gulf Coast still isn’t enough to pay for what it did.

To read coverage from the BBC about BP’s plea to Prime Minister David Cameron, check out:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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