Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Obama's $20 billion escrow from BP is so important

Having watched Alaska fishermen, villagers and others grow old and die waiting for an Exxon Valdez settlement that kept shrinking as it crept through the courts for almost 20 years, I want to note what a victory it is for President Obama to win a $20 billion escrow agreement from BP.

After the disastrous 1989 spill in Prince William Sound, the federal government — led by President George H.W. Bush — didn’t demand anything meaningful by way of restitution, leaving it to the courts.

A federal court jury in Alaska awarded about $5 billion in compensatory and punitive damages resulting from the spill. Exxon appealed at every level — including the U.S. Supreme Court — and after arguing their liabilities should be capped at $25 million, finally were assessed about $500 million.  

A significant number of the original plaintiffs of course died over the period of the appeals. It was a sickening display of callous corporate hubris, a violation of every promise made by oil companies while they lobbied for permits allowing drilling and tanker shipments of Alaska oil. They made promises when they wanted something and broke them when they fucked up.

Today’s announcement makes it vastly more probably that fishermen, tourism businesses and others in the Gulf Coast will get prompt payment for at least some of their loss. I guarantee BP will start weaseling and appealling as soon as possible — but it looks like Obama may actually hold them accountable in a way Exxon never was.
Posted via email from edge & flow

No comments: