The New York Times reported on Friday that the oil company BP, after having caused one of the biggest oils spills in history, contaminating the Gulf of Mexico, has been approved by the United States to once again drill in gulf waters. To be clear, BP must still bid for drilling rights and must pass safety, ethical and corporate governance standards. And further, "there will be risk assessments, a code of conduct for officers, guidance for officers and 'zero-tolerance' for retaliation against employees or contractors who raise safety concerns." (Hey, now there's a great foundation on which to build!)
Personally, I don't think BP should be allowed to drill in the Gulf. I don't mean now -- I mean ever. The damage that BP did is today still incalculable. The damage was done, not just by accident, but by having no real controls in place, using instead out-of-date, boilerplate, mumbo-jumbo folderol in their preparation manual. Their clean-up efforts were pathetic, forced by others to greater action and even then using dangerous products that hadn't been tested for their own potential damage.
I think BP has forgone any right to drill in that area again. Would that be unfair to the company? What they did was unfair to the Gulf of Mexico, the animals and wildlife, the people who live in the area, the United States and the rest of the world who would otherwise benefit from its many fruits. So, keeping perspective in mind, such a prohibition might be completely fair. Yes, they paid a penalty -- a paltry one -- but that's because they caused ghastly damage. And yes, I know there's the old saying, "Let bygones be bygones," but in BP's case much pristine of what they caused to be bygone is actually bygone, forever. No one is saying that BP should go out of business or never be allowed to drill in the U.S. again, or anywhere (though there's a nice symmetry to that) -- just not in the location that they demolished. Some parts perhaps forever.
And by the way, history is full of companies that screwed up in some huge way and went out of business because of it. Has anyone here used the venerable accounting firm Arthur Anderson lately? They were so deeply irresponsible in covering Enron that, regardless of their long, respected history, they're gone now, out of business. Lehman Brothers had $275 billion in assets before having to declare bankrputcy in 2013, and is currently settling its debts before it officially disappears. No one is guaranteed eternal existence. BP has no guaranteed, protective force shield surrounding it ensuring perpetual life.
Still, I do understand giving a company a chance to have continued operation and not be put of business, even if I think it would be okay in BP's place. Yes, that would cause huge damage in England to institutional investors where BP is so critical and integral to the country's economy. But BP caused huge damage itself, and loss is one of the risks of investing. Still, as I said, I wouldn't argue for liquidation. Just that I wouldn't weep over it.
But I'm hardly alone in being against letting BP back in the Gulf. Especially letting them back now.
"It's kind of outrageous to allow BP to expand their drilling presence here in the gulf," said Raleigh Hoke, of the Gulf Restoration Network, adding, "They still haven't really made it right when it comes to the gulf.
The consumer activist group, Public Citizen, said that the settlement "lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off for its crimes against people and the environment."
When the ban against BP drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was first implemented by the EPA, they cited BP for "lack of business integrity." The ban hasn't been overturned because of any great change in integrity, but was the result of a settlement of a lawsuit with the government.
Swell. Welcome back, BP. We hold our breath. Not just in anticipation of what happens next, but to avoid the fumes still coming from the gulf...
You stink. But just to be fair, I
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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