The BP/TransOcean/Halliburton Deepwater Horizon explosion as we all recall, caused quite a fracas. The aspect that got the most noise was the resulting White House moratorium on deep water drilling, with its impact on offshore oil jobs having received a lot of press, mainly in the right wing media.
In reality, its negative effect is not likely to last very long for the big players involved. Especially Halliburton, who walked away with such a disgraceful slap on the wrist of just a $200,000 penalty. Of course, this was the highest penalty that could be levied against the firm for its shoddy work, denial of liability and destruction of all records implicating itself.
So shameful in fact, that Halliburton felt compelled to donate $55 million dollars in penance to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that was not conditioned on the court’s acceptance of its plea agreement. Obviously they realise it makes them look bad to get convicted and only have to pay a fine for destroying evidence equalling just 0.03% of their 2nd quarter profits.
Officials have surveyed the damage that the Gulf oil spill has caused on animals, and coastal marshes. Getting off with less leniency than Halliburton and BP are the animals in the Gulf of Mexico. Many bird species, including royal terns, Caspian terns, as well as marsh birds like the mottled ducks, clappers and black rails, seaside sparrows, and birds who build nests along the shores, like American oystercatchers and Wilson’s plovers are suffering still, with reduced populations and shorter lifespans.
Birds that hunt and live on the water are heavily impacted. So toxic has the gulf environment become, that many ducks, loons and grebes avoid the area when they can, which can lead to long term population declines. Seagulls, terns, and herons feed on the water, even the state bird of Louisiana, the brown pelican, are all at long term risk. It’s not just exposure to the water, it’s the fish they eat, poison pills thanks to toxic dispersants and other chemical cocktails.
Oil and petroleum products cause animals to breathe in oil, eat it in their food, and it gets on their bodies. The resulting effects damage their respiratory and digestive systems, and poisoning their blood, which harms their organs, including lungs, kidneys, liver, and heart.
The Gulf Oil Spill is referenced as the worse environmental disaster in American history. It is a scarring episode in our history, and the fact that a company can come in, cut corners to increase their profit margins, then completely fail and destroy one of the Earth’s largest ecosystems and walk away with the loss of just a couple hours profit is just bad theatre.
The government needs to be accountable, and ensure that the penalties for threatening ecosystems are sufficient to ensure corporations won’t just factor in the costs of penalties as a cost of doing business. The environment is a bigger issue than jobs, but the government and the media seem blind to that reality.
The responsibility that we all share under the law should be equal to the crime. From Litterbugs to Halliburtons, the penalty should match the crime.