BP may be profitable again, but they've still got work to do - and money to spend - in the Gulf. Photo of Elmer's Island, LA on September 26, 2012. BP released its third quarter earnings yesterday, announcing that they netted $5.5 billion in profit! Wow. They also increased the dividend to their shareholders, while only spending $59 million related to their disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (that's about 1% of their profit for the quarter). Seriously?!?! In the same quarter that Hurricane Isaac churned up BP's oil that is still littered all over the Gulf and the trash BP left on the ocean floor is leaking oil, they only spent $59 million on the Gulf? So much for the promises in the slick ads, BP. It's time to put your money where your mouth is. Here are a few ideas of what BP should be spending money on:
1. Clean Water Act fines. Under the Clean Water Act, BP is fined per barrel of oil released into the water. This isn't restoration or clean up, it's just a fine, kind of like how you pay precious dollars when you get a ticket for speeding. Multiple reports provide evidence that BP was grossly negligent, which quadruples the fine to a total of $21 billion or so. BP should stop fighting the fine, and just pay up. Besides, the company can rest assured that they're doing a good thing for the Gulf because GRN and many, many others were successful in passing the RESTORE Act that will ensure the funds are directed to Gulf recovery to help alleviate decades of environmental damage to the region.
2. Early restoration and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA). Under the Oil Pollution Act, a process known as the Natural Resources Damage Assessment was established to determine the amount of damage done by an oil spill and how the responsible company must fix it. Under this law, BP has to get the Gulf back to the way it was on April 19, 2010. Early on, BP promised $1 billion in early restoration dollars to jumpstart this process, but so far they've only actually spent around $60 million. They're holding out on the rest, and challenging the NRDA process at every step of the way. It's time to pay up to restore the Gulf!
Note: Regarding the top two issues, there have been rumors of a settlement between the Department of Justice, who is prosecuting, and BP. Well, clearly, BP's idea of a "reasonable settlement" isn't the same as ours. The Department of Justice must stand strong and hold BP accountable to the maximum extent of the law. Clearly, the company can afford it.
3. Clean up their trash. Just last month, a slick reappeared at the site of BP's Macondo well. Apparently, a discarded containment dome (that didn't actually work to contain the gushing oil) was left on the seafloor and was leaking oil. Use some of your profits to clean up your trash, BP.
4. Clean up their oil! BP's oil is still lurking just beneath the water's surface, on the seafloor, and in the marsh. Hurricane Isaac showed just how much oil is still out there impacting the environment, wildlife, and communities. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard has begun to let BP off the hook, but we need BP to keep monitoring and cleaning up.
5. Improve safety at their refineries. They may be selling it off soon, but for the moment, BP's Texas City refinery is recovering from a fire. This is the same site of the refinery explosion in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured 180 more. It's offshore rigs aren't the only issue, clearly, BP needs to invest more in the safety of all its operations.
6. Actually move beyond petroleum. The climate chaos continues with Hurricane Sandy's huge hit to the East Coast. BP and all of the oil industry needs to get out of the way of climate change legislation and start putting their money into (rather than withdrawling it from) developing the clean energy sources of the future.
Dan Favre is GRN's Communications Director.