Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Prosecuting BP

44 days ago BP's Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, causing an oil spill which is still gushing. Now, finally, the US government has launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

Good. What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico is an environmental crime. It threatens the ecosystem of the Gulf and the livelihoods of everyone who lives nearby. Unfortunately, the criminal penalties are unlikely to come even remotely close to the damage caused. The coastline has been poisoned, fisheries are closed, and the local tourism industry has been shut down. And that damage will continue for years. All because a few people got greedy and cut corners.

The only thing that will compensate for the damage this has caused is if BP is seized, broken up, its assets sold and the funds put into trust for remediation and compensating those whose livelihoods have been destroyed. Unfortunately, US law does not provide for this sort of penalty. In the case of corporations which commit serious crimes, it should.