#MakeBPpay! Citizens gather outside the federal courthouse in New Orleans before the trial against BP begins. $16 billion? Peanuts
$31 billion? Closer
$50 billion? Now we're talking.
Today, before opening remarks began in the "Environmental Trial of the Century" that will determine just how much BP and their partners must pay for the destruction they have wrought in the Gulf, I joined colleagues and activists to greet lawyers and media with a simple message: #MakeBPpay.
Of course, the BP disaster is ultimately not something that can be 'fixed' with any amount of money. The oil, the dispersant and the taint of this historically horrific event can not be scrubbed away. The bell cannot be unrung and the ecosystem can not proceed as if it was never exposed to BP's crude and corexit.
Justice for the Gulf and all the communities BP has devastated demands full transparency and complete accountability. We need to learn the lessons of this disaster and demand more of the industry while restoring the ecosystem BP and their colleagues have further threatened.
We've been forced to watch BP spin and paint the disaster with warm colors and rainbows in their offensive and disingenuous television commercials, without the ability to respond on their scale. The trial gives the Gulf and its defenders a level playing field to get at what went wrong offshore and why, while ultimately talking about the ongoing impacts, the community impacts, the failed response, and the scientific questions which remain.
As rumored settlement discussions proceed at the same time the trial takes place, we need more pressure on BP and the Department of Justice to do what's right for the Gulf. Let's direct settlement dollars to where they will do the most good while sending the clearest message to corporate bad-actors. Don't let BP write off the Gulf as a 'cost of doing business.'
The rumored $16 billion settlement for all fines and penalties is a pittance. Since BP's actions are clearly grossly negligent, they should pay more than that in Clean Water Act fines alone. And then there's the not-so-small matter of "undoing" their damage, which is required under the Oil Pollution Act. Doing some quick math based on past spills, that amount could easily eclipse $30 billion. Add it all up, and BP is looking at around $50 billion to finally "make things right" under the law. The bigger the ultimate number, the more restoration of the Gulf can be accomplished, and restoring our environment restores our economy.
I hope Alabama's AG Luther Strange continues to play a central role. I like what he had to say in his opening remarks today:
"The evidence will show that, at BP, money mattered most. Money mattered more than the environment. Money mattered more than the thousands of jobs and businesses they destroyed along the Gulf Coast. Money even mattered more than the lives of the 11 workers who died on the Horizon rig. Money mattered more to BP than the Gulf. A lot more. Your honor, the evidence will be clear and unmistakable: Greed devastated the Gulf"
If you couldn't make it out this morning, to help us greet the lawyers as they arrived for court, you can help us out right now by making a donation to give us the resources to continue to hold BP accountable. To demand community accountability and corporate transparency offshore through the creation of a Gulf Offshore Energy Regional Citizens Advisory Council. To find the oil spills and chemical accidents along our coast and offshore. To demand better for our nation's energy sacrifice zone.
A lot is riding on this trial... We need your help to make a difference for this threatened yet irreplaceable treasure.
Aaron Viles is GRN's deputy director. You can follow him on twitter here.