Texas fool and oil industry lackey Joe Barton is a sucker. Today he apologized to BP for the rough treatment they have received. Then apologized for his apology after doing the political math. What do you want to bet he is in a safe seat? As our own commenter Jerry P has pointed out, the $20B fund may not even cost BP that dearly when all the insurance, other party’s liability, and tax write-offs settle out.
But that is not the key mistake in judgment. To rely on the court system alone for recourse for victims is naive. There often is no recourse for victims in the courts. It is reported that Exxon tied up claims in the Valdez matter for decades and upwards of a thousand claimants died before their cases could be heard. The documentary movie CRUDE depicts the fight of Texaco/Chevron to avoid payment for environmental damages in the Amazon for close to two decades. The suit has been fought for 17 years and was filed well after the environmental contamination.
Consider this Saudi perspective just this week on a matter easily forgotten in the US, but still affecting Bhopal from a catastrophic 1984 accident with egregious negligence on the part of the firm..
Union Carbide should be gearing up now for a massive decontamination operation which would involve them paying whatever it takes to cleanse the Bhopal plant and the surrounding area, fix the poisonous water supply, provide proper medical treatment for the tens of thousands still affected, compensate them directly and, if necessary, relocate them somewhere where they can be safe from further exposure to deadly toxins. Or do 11 US lives matter more to Obama than 15,000 and more dead Indian citizens?
Just over a week ago seven Indian citizens were convicted for their roles, 26 long years later. Granted, Indian incompetence and graft played a role in these delays, but Union Carbide’s lawyers took advantage of that graft to settle a case without compensation to victims and without cleaning up of the still contaminated facility. The justice system let them off the hook. The US has shielded Union Carbide’s CEO from accountability in Indian courts.
US courts are better, but not that much better.
For BP to do the calculus and decide to offer some expedited claims process is not a shakedown, it is good business sense. For a President to expedite claims for affected citizens is fair and just. For Joe Barton, the largest recipient of big oil company contributions sitting in the Congress, to defend the offender in so consequential and obvious a case shows a tin ear, callousness to American citizens, and a blind faith that there is really nothing wrong with a system where huge corporations privatize profits and externalize or socialize the consequences of negligence, using protections offered Corporations under current law to evade accountability and shield employees.