“The people who live along the Gulf Coast know the truth”


It was gratifying to see that the editorial board of the New Orleans Times-Picayune has picked up on the issue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its treachery against the small- and mid-sized business owners of the Gulf Coast. As you’ll recall, last week we spotlighted how the inside-the-Beltway-based national Chamber — which receives the bulk of its support and is increasingly fixated on the needs of the top 1 Percent of multinational corporations — is backing a British oil giant, BP, against the rank-and-file, salt-of-the-earth business people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

These business owners filed claims against BP after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, because they lost billions of dollars in canceled motel rooms, fishing trips, car rentals, or in lost seafood sales, and much, much more. Some of them suffered greatly in the regionwide economic downturn that followed. In 2012, they reached a settlement with BP and its lawyers, one that BP initially thought was fair and in fact argued for in court, vociferously. Now that it’s time to write the checks, though, BP has been appealing to undo the deal. That kind of behavior if what we’ve come to expect from the ruthless London-based energy giant over the last 4-plus years — but the U.S. Chamber siding with a foreign company against its domestic members is unconscionable.

The editorial board of the Times-Picayune agrees:

The national Chamber of Commerce is doing what it can to help at the expense of smaller companies it should help protect. That is a shame.

The Gulf Coast chambers are right to stick up for the businesses in our region that suffered because of the BP spill.

BP is just upset that the settlement is costing more than the $7.8 billion the company estimated it would. The company is also facing massive penalties under the federal Clean Water Act in proceedings being overseen by Judge [Carl] Barbier.

The piece adds:

In truth, BP has been trying to minimize its liability for the spill from the beginning. As the Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, 2010, an expert reported to BP that the well would spill 82,000 barrels a day if unobstructed, according to internal e-mail messages disclosed in a federal lawsuit. BP kept that data from government officials who were preparing the disaster response.

The company has continued that tactic. But no matter how hard BP tries to minimize the damage done by its broken well, the people who live along the Gulf Coast know the truth — even if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t.

I wanted to highlight this editorial because it shows that a growing number of opinion leaders here on the Gulf are coming to realize something I’ve been saying for months: The problem for BP is not that the terms of the settlement are too generous, or that businesses and their lawyers are scheming how to take unfair advantage of it. No, the problem for BP is that its reckless management — first of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and later of the truth — has caused real harm to tens of thousands of local businesses, and these businesses are seeking fair compensation. The fact that a group calling itself the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would not see that — and would try to sell American businesses a phony bill of goods on behalf of this foreign corporation — is beyond outrageous.

Read the Times-Picayune editorial on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2014/10/gulf_coast_chambers_right_to_f.html#incart_river

Check out my Oct. 9 blog post on the issue: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/the-revolt-against-the-u-s-chambers-stunning-betrayal-of-main-street-america/

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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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