A recent editorial by the Al.com editorial board, an excellent and timely piece, confirms that Judge Carl Barbier was absolutely correct in his findings on the allocation of fault between the wrongdoers that caused the worst oil spill disaster in history. The following is the editorial in its entirety.
In this Wednesday, April 21, 2010 file photo, oil can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana’s tip, as a large plume of smoke rises from fires on BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. An April 20, 2010 explosion at the offshore platform killed 11 men, and the subsequent leak released an estimated 172 million gallons of petroleum into the gulf. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) A fair deal. An honest partner. That’s all the people of Alabama and their Gulf Coast neighbors ever wanted from oil giant BP, but it’s not what BP returned in 2010.
After months of trial and testimony, a federal judge ruled Thursday that BP was grossly negligent in the oil well blowout that killed 11 and dumped millions of barrels of oil in the Gulf. BP already has paid $28 billion trying to head off this federal hammer. It will, and should, pay lots more. That number will spiral upward because United States District Court Judge Carl Barbier not only ruled that BP was “negligent,” but it was “grossly negligent.” The difference is more than semantics. Under federal law, BP could face $18 billion more in fines. The last phase of the trial will determine how much more BP will pay. Under the Clean Water Act, the maximum penalty is $1,100 per barrel spilled if the court finds simple negligence and $4,300 per barrel if the court finds gross negligence or willful misconduct.
BP has long said it made errors, but the flaws were shared with its business partners – rig owner Transocean and well service provider Halliburton. The court essentially scoffed at the position. This was BP’s handiwork, the court said. This ruling is not merely a decision. It’s an indictment that BP rolled the dice with the lives of people who depended on a healthy Gulf, and did so knowing the risks and ignoring them for the sake of profit. Naturally, the next few months will witness more legal appeals. As for payment to those who have suffered damage at BP’s hands, some have been paid fairly, others have tried to finagle a little extra.
All should get what they rightfully deserve and no more. We’ve had enough greed for a lifetime. BP’s indifference to the people of the Gulf is no cause for reciprocal self-dealing. But the federal judge said it best. “BP was reckless,” he said. That willful disregard cost death aboard the rig, and traumatized the Gulf’s environment for years. What Alabama and its Gulf friends deserve is no less than fairness. The court finally has determined the shape of that fairness. Good.
This editorial is a definite confirmation of Judge Barbier’s findings and resulting order. It’s quite refreshing to see an insightful and absolutely correct appraisal of how truly bad BP was and continues to be.
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