Today marks the one month anniversary of the explosion that killed 11 workers aboard a Gulf of Mexico oil rig owned by the tax-dodging Swiss company Transocean but leased + managed by British Petroleum. The resulting fire (and uncoordinated firefighting by private vessels) caused the rig to sink in 5,000 feet of water two days later, and oil has been gushing out of the hole BP punched at the bottom of the ocean ever since. Following are the 5 things we now know about the disaster:
1. We should have seen this coming from 5,000 feet away. BP was on criminal probation at the time of the disaster for felony violation of U.S. environmental laws. The company has one of the worst track records of any oil company operating in America. It needs more than just a financial slap on the wrist, which is what it will get if the $75 million liability cap remains in place. Instead, BP should pay full damages to those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods in addition to playing for the cost of cleanup.
2. Mounting evidence shows that BP was negligent. Firsthand accounts describe BP managers proceeding with work to cap the well, even though they were informed that the integrity of the blowout preventer had been compromised. BP must be held accountable – and should be subject to permanent sanctions and criminal charges against executives.
3. BP is as transparent as oil about the disaster. BP has consistently misled the public about how much oil is gushing from the well, has forbidden scientists from more thoroughly analyzing the rate of the gusher and has blocked journalists from taking photos of oil-covered beaches. At the same time, BP is footing the bill for a $70 million television ad campaign to assure tourists that Gulf Coast beaches are safe.
4. The Minerals Management Service cannot be trusted to protect workers, the environment or taxpayers. We need a total overhaul of this dreadful agency – now.
5. We must ban all new leasing, permitting and drilling offshore until a full investigation is complete. It would be senseless to continue this practice for one more second until safety is analyzed and improvements are implemented, not to mention that “drill baby drill” doesn’t solve our energy problems.
-Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program