We read about it or see on television every day that an extremely wealthy man or woman receives impunity for a crime committed. If they are punished, it is little more than a slap on the wrist.
The Petroleum Industry has some of the most profitable corporations in the United States. The Deepwater Horizon tragedy revealed the truth; profit was the primary goal; insuring that safety was paramount, not so much.
The 2010 explosion which released millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico caused the death of 11 men working on the rig, tragic loss of marine life, damage to the marshes, soil erosion, and harm to the lifestyle of 17,000 members of the Houma tribe.
Legal settlements which require the oil company responsible, BP, to compensate individuals and businesses are in the early stages of distribution. The members of the Houma tribe fear that they will not receive the monies they deserve to assist in the restoration of land that has eroded or is now unusable, and is threatening their way of life.
Why didn’t the federal government negotiate compensation for the Houma tribe? They are recognized by the state of Louisiana, but not by the United States Government. When the tribe’s leader attempted to obtain financial settlement from BP, they denied any and all assistance, claiming that they had ‘no obligation’ to repay the Houma for damage to their land.
The lasting damage from a large oil spill can be seen for decades. Damage from the Exxon Valdez oil tanker incident in 1989 is a clear example. Researchers examined the area around the Alaska shoreline in 2007. Scientists discovered 26,000 gallons of the black goo had settled into the sand. The estimates are that only four percent of the oil will dissipate each year.
The Deepwater Horizon released 170 million gallons of oil into the gulf. As with the Exxon Valdez, the extent of the damage may not be known for years to come. Adding to damage by the crude, two million gallons of chemical dispersants were used, causing another form of environmental damage. Although the oil cannot be seen on the surface, it remains on the ocean floor and in the sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast.
Oil and gas companies began extracting crude from the Louisiana Bayou in 1920. Pipelines routing the oil to gulf area refineries have rerouted the natural flow of silt into the wetlands, causing the coastline to erode at a rate of 16.57 square miles each year over the last twenty five.
The next time you see a commercial paid for by BP, telling us what a great job they did in the gulf cleaning up their mess, remember this. Oil companies are not good for America; they are only interested in their massive profits.
As for the Houma tribe, it appears that they have no recourse. The federal government is not making efforts to assist them in their need for financial settlement; and BP simply doesn’t care.
A final thought; no one working for BP or Halliburton has been deemed culpable for the death of 11 men who lost their lives when the rig exploded.
By James Turnage
Al Jazeera America
National Wildlife Federation