An Open Letter To The United States Congress Regarding BP Gulf Oil Spill
Dear United States Congress:
We are witnessing the greatest environmental catastrophe of the modern era in the Gulf of Mexico. Many of the top experts have already estimated that this oil volcano has far surpassed the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Even if the current “stopgap” measures temporarily contain this gusher, it still remains an extraordinary challenge to permanently cap. Simply put, we have HUGE problems before us no matter how you look at it. Many are silently weeping in the privacy of their homes because of the sheer enormity and profound gravity of this ongoing, unprecedented, manmade disaster.
The cost associated with both fixing the immediate oil spillage and cleanup of the Gulf coastline is going to reach into the multi-billions of dollars. The Gulf States have been experiencing a decline in tax revenues due to the recession, which has translated into severe budget cuts across the board. Therefore, these states cannot afford to pay for the necessary remediation and long-term costs of recovery. Most importantly, it is not the State’s responsibility to pay them. It is the responsibility of British Petroleum (BP), Halliburton, Transocean and all other parties contracted to perform services directly related to the operation of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform.
The list of liable parties does include the US Federal Government, since they are the permitting authority and accountable jurisdiction in this matter. It was, after all, an historic breakdown in the regulatory process which created such an hospitable environment for everything to go wrong. It is untrue that all the failsafe mechanisms broke down; everything went wrong because very little was done right. The most basic precautions were neglected, as such practice became standard operating procedure for BP. They were known to have cut every corner and stretched every law in order to sink a well 22,500 feet into the earth – apparently one of the deepest ever.
The $64,000 question here is what were the statutory limits on this type of exploratory drilling in this particular prospect (Macondo Prospect was known to be off limits due to extraordinarily high compression issues in the deep geological strata). And, where was the US Government when such risky and experimental technology was being employed in our own back yard, especially when EVERYONE in the industry knows that the methane ignition problem exists practically everywhere, all the time. Any geologist/archeologist will tell you that an unrelenting chain reaction of massive methane explosions is a very likely reason for the extinction of the dinosaurs. Seafloor volcanoes, powerful earthquakes, asteroids or meteorite impacts can all trigger this type of domino effect with vast and rapid earth-changing effects. As can coal mine explosions, detonations of nuclear weaponry, global greenhouse gas concentrations and, of course, oil and gas drilling, particularly in areas that are vulnerable like the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The public record, government filings and BP company documentation will bear out that the implementation of a toothless regulatory regime guaranteed that this multifaceted calamity was going to occur sooner or later. That the Feds were AWOL, and are still out to lunch, has exposed Uncle Sam to some massive monetary damages. Conveniently, they have already made a down payment to the State of Florida in the form of a bailout payment. Thank you, Mr. Obama. And thank you, Governor Crist, for your foresight!
This brings us to the very solemn and explicit purpose of this open letter. We hereby request that the US Federal Government immediately seize the assets of BP – all of them – from around the world, as well as from other responsible parties. Upon acquisition, such assets should be placed in a working trust fund, which can be tapped by the US Gulf States, as well as by other injured states and nations, as they fall victim to this CRIME OF THE CENTURY.
Where there is a crime, there is a criminal. British Petroleum is the 4th largest company in the world and the UK’s largest corporation. In the 1st quarter of 2010, this global energy behemoth earned well over $6 billion in profit. At the outset of this disaster BP set aside a mere $25 million dollars for damage control and preventive measures for the entire State of Florida – this for the largest oil spill in history along 1200+ miles of the most valuable and cherished coastline and beaches in the world. Such inadequate action demands a response nothing short of criminal prosecution, all the way up to the top of the organizational structure of BP to include the entire Board of Directors.
This ‘supermajor’ of multi-national oil companies willfully took advantage of their status as a foreign corporation to avoid all types of routine inspections and certifications by the US government. In so doing, they conducted their oil drilling and extraction process in an extremely cavalier and shockingly reckless way. This corporate behavior fits an established pattern of conduct which clearly demonstrates their intention to drill for and extract oil no matter what the risk to human life, consequences to the aquatic environment or repercussions to the once beautiful Gulf of Mexico coastline. The motivation, of course, was profit and to forever maximize the wealth of the stakeholders. When taken to this excess, however, it is known as greed – insatiable GREED which must be put in check.
When one does harm to person or property, the citizen is always held accountable in our society, and presented with an opportunity to make the injured parties whole. BP, et al, has not done that, nor can they be trusted to follow through as would be expected of a responsible corporate citizen. They have essentially committed a crime against humanity, as well as the planet, itself. This rogue corporate entity must be held up high as an example of how not to conduct business anywhere in the world, ever! Perhaps British Petroleum should even be set up, for all time, as the quintessential poster child of rogue corporations that pursues profit at any cost – environmental, economic, social, political, etc. Were it not for such a callous and self-serving modus operandi, BP could not have perpetrated such a heinous and unforgettable atrocity against the world community.
It pains us that we must paint such a graphic picture of this exceedingly reprehensible and unsavory corporate behavior. It is likewise regretable that we are compelled to speak this truth in the public domain for all to hear without trial, judge or jury. However, this matter is so urgent and demanding in nature, that the People of the Gulf States, as well as their property, must be protected. The only practical relief, for all concerned, is to seize all the assets of BP post haste before this outlaw corporation declares bankruptcy, or allows its officers to abscond with its cash and other easily liquidated and transferable investments.
It is quite obvious that the immediate future for BP will bring a global record of lawsuits, liens and litigation of every sort and kind. They will be tied up in the courts for the rest of their corporate life, with very little to offer back to society in the end. So many competing parties and interests will be looking to carve up their asset base and investment portfolio that the lawyers will stand to gain the most. Predictably, there will be little remaining for the people who will be left broken and destitute, jobless and homeless, sickened and hopeless.
The CORPORATION has been granted the extraordinary shield of limited liability in this age to the great detriment of all. This has allowed BP to assault us – our homes and property, our businesses and jobs, our livelihoods and whole way of life – without fear of retribution or just punishment. Such a transgression against a whole region of a country, as well as other nations which border the southern Gulf, demands a new paradigm of justice and administration of corporate law.
At the very minimum this new order of business should effectively strip them (and any other offending corporate entity) of these wholly unjustifiable legal protections. In other words the LIMITED LIABILITY clause must go forever. These two simple words have allowed them, and many other corporations going all the way back to the founding of the British East India Company on December 31, 1600, to literally conduct multi-generational crime sprees against whole nations, cultures, and helpless indigenous peoples. These crime sprees have been defined, in many cases, by the institutionalized and wholesale theft of resources, as well as murder (actually genocide) of their rightful owners. Case closed.
In order to ensure proper reimbursement of so many aggrieved and violated parties, BP must be made to pay, and PAY NOW, NOT LATER. The appropriate compensatory measures are critical to the economy of the Gulf States, as well as to the finances of its citizens. Punitive damages can be levied as the adjudication process allows which will provide additional funding for remediation. The necessary criminal prosecutions and subsequent harsh sentences will serve as future deterrence, unless this company decides to embrace a truly sustainable and clean energy platform. Finally, as the evidence of wrongdoing is presented and whistleblowers submit their affidavits, a record can be established that will inevitably illustrate the dire need to permanently terminate all oil and gas exploration and drilling throughout the Gulf of Mexico. And, perhaps the Planet.
Dr. Tom Termotto
Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference
P.S. The following is an NOAA map of the nearly 4000 oil and gas platforms extant in the Gulf of Mexico in 2006 per Wikipedia. What are the odds of another oil rig “going south” given this density of active platforms in Hurricane Alley?