In nearly two year since the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill aboard BP Deepwater Horizon oil platform drilling rig that caught fire explosion spewing massive amounts of oil into the gulf’s ocean, resulting in 11 deaths and 17 injured that contaminated an entire region alone the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi Alabama and Florida destroyed marsh lands, coastal shores, fishery industry, sea animals, wildlife, tourism, beaches and a fragile ecosystem.
BP was let off the hook in a settlement agreement avoiding a trial for the damages they caused in the Gulf’s oil catastrophe. The judge that presided over the trial hand-picked lawyers for the victims of the Deepwater Horizon, transact what’s being called a “back room deal” with oil giant saving BP from trial and billions of dollars from fines, restitution and punitive damages. This sleazy settlement will cover damages for the 120,000 victims of the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster.
Avoiding a trial will also save BP the threat of exposing the truth on that dreadful night that took the lives of 11 men from a fiery explosion and the facts regarding the Gulf of Mexico oil platform blow-out that spewedmassive amounts of oil polluting the Gulf’s waters. The $7.8 billion BP says it will spend damages to the plaintiffs on this settlement will not cover thelost lives, damages, lost incomes, homes, businesses, boats, and medical sickness not compensated financial devastation to the many African American fishermen and many small businesses, churches and hoteliers that were impacted most by the spill in the Gulf region after the US government found them responsible for the spill, as PB has avoided to compensate before the start of this trial.
Nearly two years ago, President Barack Obama and the White House forced BP to set aside at least $20 billion for the oil spill’s victims for the next five years. This settlement will add exactly nothing to that fund.
The BP claims and lawsuit was going to be one of the biggest legal battles in US history as claimants moved forward claiming personal and financial losses after the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf. The legal proceedings BP wanted to prove that they were not entirely at fault. Now without a trialBP and the other two companies, Halliburton and Transocean the federal government cannot provide evidence if all of these companies are grossly negligent in the Gulf disaster. BP’s settlement prevents being labeled “grossly negligent” saving hundreds of billions of dollars in damages.Shocking but true.
BP’s settlement avoided this trial which could have taken years to end and work in BP’s favor like the lawsuit filed against Exxon-Valdez after the oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989 that lasted a decade and Exxon got off paying hundreds of millions in damages as opposed to the billions they were being sued for.
BP evaded punitive damages by offering paying the settlement no provision for the punishment for its willful negligence. In the Exxon Valdez trial, a jury awarded $5 billion in punitive damages. BP’s neglect and action caused in the Gulf, is far greater. This means that BP now has to pay no more than proven damages and not be held negligence. Instead BP walks away without civil punishment as law and justice was not served as settlement preventinga trial denies the civil truth. BP got away with this.
I wrote in a previous article in 2010 regarding the political and financial ties BP has with U.S. elected officials, judges and connections to big oil strong financial ties to the oil industry in wake of this disaster. Big oil provides deep pockets to most judges in the Gulf coast area where this trial was supposed to take place. According to the Houston Chronicle, “37 of the 64 judges” in the Gulf area have financial ties to big oil along with Congressional members that sits on Capitol Hill.
BP purchasesCongressional Influence to serve its own special Interest. BP lobbied Congress on behalf of the Deepwater Horizon disaster to destroy any civil or legislative efforts that would hurt its self-interest to drill oil in the Gulf again. BP nearly spent $16 million on lobbying in 2010. Now in 2012, in the wake of this settlement, BP’s lobbying appears to have paid off.
President Obama recently opened up the arctic waters of Alaska for future oil drilling, has reopened the Gulf of Mexico to Deepwater platform oil drilling again. Politicians, lawyers, judges, lobbyist, environmentalist, governors, state and local officials, and environmental agencies will continue have strong financial ties to the oil industry in wake of this disaster.
BP, Halliburton and Transocean still face federal and state charges related to the possible violation of polluted water laws, and the federal government is conducting a criminal investigation in the death of the 11 men aboard the Deepwater Horizon. Any deal requires the approval of U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans, who has financial ties to big oil.
With politicians and judges making strange bedfellows with BP and big oil, we will have to sit back wait and see how his moves forward.
The opinion expressed in the commentary
article are solely those of Michael Coker