The true costs of oil production and exploration become clearer every day, as the pace of growth in offshore production increases, the cycle of death and destruction sadly seems to be keeping pace. More than 2.5 years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we still have yet to see any real change. I would argue the risks are greater today. Since the moratorium in the Gulf was lifted in the fall of 2010, the US has gone into high gear, selling off millions of square miles of the Gulf to exploration and development. Oil production has rocketed past 2010 levels, expecting to reach record highs in 2013. Safety measures by the oil industry and regulation by government sadly lag behind the rush to drill, placing workers, the environment, and coastal communities at increasing risk.
The day after a controversial settlement was announced that would relieve BP of further liability for most of the crimes committed related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we are reminded that a big payout by one of the richest corporations in the world is not enough to make a significant difference. It is certainly inadequate for the survivors and families of workers that are killed and injured by negligent, and in the case of the Deepwater Horizon, criminal acts. It is not enough for the communities that rely on a healthy Gulf.
We don’t yet know the causes of this tragic loss of life, and we have too little information about any environmental impacts. But one thing that last week's Justice Department settlement with BP brings to light is that corporations that callously disregard the law, resulting in injury to human health and the environment, will be convicted of felony crimes. The collateral consequences of such a conviction can include being disqualified from contracting with the US and being excluded from certain benefits and privileges granted to other corporations. Accordingly, the sentencing Judge and the US should consider terminating or limiting contracts or subsidies to BP and other felonious corporations, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic, and other sensitive areas.
Black Elk Energy, the owner of the ill-fated platform that will now contribute to the grim statistics of tragedy in the Gulf, was recently named one of the fastest-growing privately held companies, with an impressive three year sales growth of 2,510%. Black Elk was racing to drill the first of 23 new wells in the Gulf of Mexico. If the evidence shows that in their race to profit, Black Elk, like BP, broke the law, they should both be prohibited from exploration and production in waters of the United States.