For the past few days, executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton have been involved in congressional hearings regarding their responsibility in the Gulf oil spill that claimed 11 lives, injured several others, and is currently releasing thousands of barrels of oil into the deep sea every day.
Despite accepting all the “liability, blame, and fault” for the disaster, all three companies have engaged in a fair amount of corporate finger pointing, all trying to position themselves to absorb as little of the cost as possible.
But these companies have profit margins in the billions of dollars every year, and no matter how much they have to pay to clean-up their mess, it will be residents and small business owners in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida that must deal with the true economic consequences of this disaster.
On May 2nd, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a minimum ten-day ban on all recreational and commercial fishing in federal waters most affected by the BP oil spill, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay.
That was 11 days ago.
In 2008, eastern Florida and the Gulf region’s commercial fishing industry generated more than $10.5 billion in sales, more than $5.6 billion in income, and supported more than 200,000 jobs in 2008 (NRDC).
It’s likely that fishing will remain restricted until the EPA and USDA can get a handle what contaminants have been absorbed by fish and shrimp in the area.
Soon, restaurants and grocery stores around the country will start feeling the squeeze as seafood prices are likely to increase dramatically. The result will probably be empty tables and a lack of shrimp on the barbee.
The oil spill is taking an economic toll on hotel and tourism business in the Gulf as well.
Fishing tournaments that usually bring contestants and spectators from all oer the country are being postponed and those who operate charter boats and vacation cabins have found many of their bookings being canceled.
Although some hotels have seen increased business because of oil crews and reporters working in the area, many are watching the cancelled reservations pile up, as people are reluctant to spend their vacation lounging by an oil slick.
For the many that oppose offshore drilling, these economic impacts magnify the need for BP and the others involved to admit their mistakes and make financial and ecological restitution for what they’ve done.
Predictably, there are some big oil politicians that beg to differ.
On Thursday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) asked the Senate for unanimous consent to pass his much-discussed bill to raise the liability ceiling — from $75 million to $10 billion – on economic damages resulting from an oil spill.
Why should oil companies get to say “enough is enough” to how much they must pay to clean up a mess that will affect the area for many years to come?
Despite representing a state who’s coastline is still struggling to recover from the Exxon Valdex spill of 1989, Sen. Lisa Murkowki (R-Alaska) blocked the motion on behalf of the oil industry.
Murkowski argued that a liability hike from $75 million to $10 billion “isn’t where we need to be right now.” Instead, she offered, “maybe we need to understand a little bit better as to how much we might need to look at raising the limit.”
Sorry Murkowski, but the 11 deceased rig workers aren’t ‘where they need to be’ right now- alive, healthy and with their families. The out-of-work fishermen, struggling hotel owners, chefs, restaurateurs, boat operators, and all the others that depend on these businesses to earn a living aren’t where they need to be either.
Of course, it was probably the $426,000 in campaign contributions Murkowski has received from from Big Oil during her years in office that put this concern for everyday Americans far from her mind.
SIGN THE PETITIONS!
Find full Care2 Coverage of the Spill here.
Image: Sediment samples are being collected to assess potential oil spill impacts on aquatic life near shore and are being analyzed for 29 chemicals that are components of oil.
Image Credit: Flickr - usepagov USEPA photo by Eric Vance
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