[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
It was only a year ago today that the Deepwater Horizon oil well ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico, and yet it seems as if the horrendous damage it inflicted on people and wildlife in the region has all been forgotten.
Sure, for a little while, the "drill baby drill" chants subsided for a little while -- but not for very long. Now Republicans are trying to use the spill anniversary to attack President Obama for not opening up MORE drilling.
The public strongly supports efforts to make BP accountable for restoring the Gulf's ecosystem and the damaged communities, while Republicans have been apologizing to BP for those efforts.
But just because the media haven't been paying attention, it doesn't mean that dead wildlife haven't been washing ashore in droves, or that the ecological catastrophe is only starting to become manifest.
Of course, BP has been trying hard to suppress research into the spill's effects, despite increasing evidence that they will be catastrophic.
And at the same time, the government has opened the door for more such catastrophes:
With everything Big Oil and the government have learned in the year since the Gulf of Mexico disaster, could it happen again? Absolutely, according to an Associated Press examination of the industry and interviews with experts on the perils of deep-sea drilling.Mike Conathan at the Center for American Progress has a good summary on the government's abdication of its responsibilities:
The government has given the OK for oil exploration in treacherously deep waters to resume, saying it is confident such drilling can be done safely. The industry has given similar assurances. But there are still serious questions in some quarters about whether the lessons of the BP oil spill have been applied.
The industry "is ill-prepared at the least," said Charles Perrow, a Yale University professor specializing in accidents involving high-risk technologies. "I have seen no evidence that they have marshaled containment efforts that are sufficient to deal with another major spill. I don't think they have found ways to change the corporate culture sufficiently to prevent future accidents."
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that 101 oil-spill-related bills were introduced in the 111th Congress, which came to a close in 2010. Exactly zero were enacted into law. Another 15 have been introduced so far this year—none of which has been acted upon by its committee of jurisdiction.Happy anniversary!
This is an abject failure on the part of the legislative branch when obvious fixes remain on the table. Mandated liability limits for economic damages incurred by local residents are shamefully low and no mechanism is in place to ensure any fines BP or other responsible parties are forced to pay would actually be returned to a region still devastated by the companies’ negligence.
The limit on liability for economic impacts from an oil spill remains just $75 million. BP recognized that its public relations disaster would only be exacerbated without swift and visible action, so it agreed to create a $20 billion escrow fund to pay claims arising from the accident despite this embarrassingly low liability cap. Given Congress’s reaction it seems BP’s move may have paid off for oil companies. If they will “do the right thing” anyway, why bother changing the law?
He added: "There are so many opportunities for things to go wrong that major spills are unavoidable."