It’s getting “tense” down here


Could somebody tell me why so many officials refer to this ongoing oil spill, a new Exxon Valdez every three or four days, in the past tense?

You pick up the tone in virtually every aspect of the federal response. And with all due respect to the president, the “first job” is not just to stop the oil; it’s to let people know what sorts of toxic dangers the oil presents.

Is it too much to ask that we do both together?

We need a lot more testing, and of course we need to see all the test results from BP. If it were up to me, I’d not only create a huge monetary fine for withholding information, I’d make it clear that any information leading to human illness, or even death, would be prosecuted.

Money means little when you have as much of it as BP, but even the top executives would pause in the face of, say, a manslaughter charge.

If that seems extreme, then you haven’t been paying attention. I’ve hauled this industry into court for two dozen years now, and trust me some companies are perfectly capable of withholding information that could have saved lives … I know, because we’ve proven it.

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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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