Archived Story

BP now stands for ‘beach polluter’

Published 9:13am Friday, June 11, 2010

As I walked along the beach at Gulf Shores Saturday morning I couldn’t totally avoid the tar clumps but I walked anyway…and I cried. It took me ten minutes to clean my feet before I could go back inside the condo.
Up the road the mayors of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores were complaining to a BP official that the British-owned company had taken six hours to send cleanup crews to pick up the tar on the beaches and had failed to reimburse businesses damaged by the disaster. By Sunday at 2 p.m. the oil globs had not been removed from West Beach.
When the BP spokesman started making excuses it was reported that an Orange Beach City Councilman Edward Carroll, proposed a solution: “We could put you in our jail and you can sit there until you figure it out.”
Down at Ft. Morgan the AP reports that with the oil globs washing ashore Faith Kaiser and Bertice McPherson decided to handle it themselves. Donning rubber gloves they started picking up the gooey mess long before any BP cleanup workers showed up.
The giant oil company has made a lot of promises, but I believe it will take the litigation efforts to make them face the music. There is a current liability cap of just $75 million on oil companies for economic damages (cleanup costs are not capped), but Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both of New Jersey, have introduced legislation to raise the economic damages cap to $10 billion. Both senators are unsparing critics of offshore drilling.
Now come Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Jeff Sessions of Alabama with a bill that would raise the cap to an amount equal to an oil company’s profits over the past year or $150 million, whichever is greater. The profits for BP in 2009 were $14 billion compared to $19 billion for Exxon-Mobil.
With its stated goal of not running small oil companies out of business, the Sessions-Vitter legislation sounds good but it also would depend on a belief that big oil wouldn’t use creative accounting methods or lie to keep profits low or that their profits in another ten years would dip way below the $10 billion mark. And Lautenberg says the floor of $150 million is way too low. Sen. Sessions is a former prosecutor. I believe he ought to know better than to give con artists, and foreign ones at that, the ability to determine their own punishment by juggling their books.
It is also interesting to note that according to the Center for Responsive Politics both Vitter and Sessions have been vocal supporters of deep-water drilling and have been rewarded by the oil and gas industry to the combined tune of over $1 million in campaign dollars, $783,835 to Vitter and $292,300 to Sessions.
The oil and gas industry has provided Alabama’s other Senator, Richard Shelby $331,200 and Louisiana’s other senator, Mary Landrieu, $757,744. Current senators from all the states affected by the BP spill have received almost $2.5 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry of which BP is a major contributor. Individuals and political action committees affiliated with oil and gas companies have donated $238.7 million to political candidates and parties since the 1990 election cycle. Go to opensecrets.org for a full listing of campaign contributions to members of Congress and other officials.
The famous Wyoming trial lawyer Jerry Spence refers to big corporations like BP as “the non-breathers,” meaning of course that they have no ability to breathe and thus are without remorse. Perhaps that’s the way our president and representatives ought to start viewing big oil and big everything else, but first they should stop taking their contributions in such obscene amounts.
It’s Sparks vs. ???
Maybe it’s because I’ve been following Alabama elections for way too many years, but I knew the polls were dead wrong in the Democratic gubernatorial contest. Ron Sparks may have been surprised that he won with 62 percent of the vote, but I wasn’t.
But Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Sparks is now in a totally different situation because no matter who the Republican nominee is, the Democrat will be the underdog. It appears as of this writing that with a smaller than usual number of provisional ballots to be counted, Robert Bentley stands a chance of retaining his tiny lead over Tim James. The second-place finisher will face Bradley Byrne in a GOP Primary runoff in mid-July with the unabashed help of AEA.
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

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