Not so long ago, we reported that BP will finally accept criminal charges for the catastrophic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The guilty plea was entered as part of a deal with the U.S. Government that would cost BP about $4.5 billion in fines but ultimately absolving the company from future prosecution on these charges.
Many in the Care2 community felt that the fines were a mere slap on the wrist for a company that’s responsible for the deaths of 11 rig workers and countless marine creatures, not to mention the destruction of coastal businesses and health risks to residents. Some pointed out that while BP would have five years to pay off the fine (further decreasing its impact on the company) the settlement did nothing to prevent the company from committing the same atrocity again.
Now, it seems that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken a small step toward finally hitting the British petroleum company where it hurts. In a recent press release, the EPA “announced that it has temporarily suspended BP Exploration and Production, Inc., BP PLC and named affiliated companies (BP) from new contracts with the federal government. The U.S. EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response, as reflected by the filing of a criminal information.”
Before you celebrate, let’s examine what this really means. First, it’s only a temporary suspension, so it could be another symbolic action that lacks teeth. Second, it does not affect existing agreements BP may have with the government. So, while the government feels that BP “lacks business integrity” and is ultimately responsible for a horrifying accident that killed 11 people, it’s not opposed to doing business with them.
Although the EPA’s suspension of new government drilling contracts with BP should be permanent and retroactive, it’s still a positive development. Unfortunately, just cutting out BP won’t reduce the risk of off shore drilling to U.S. residents and the environment. There are plenty of other greedy oil companies just waiting to take their place. As EcoWatch notes, it’s interesting that this announcement came on the same day that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held an oil and gas lease sale that will make more than 20 million offshore acres available to oil and gas drilling in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area.
For a President who promised to make climate action a top priority, Mr. Obama is off to a confusing and disappointing start.
Image via fibonnaciblue/Flickr