The Signs Before the Warning Signs

Occasionally my masochistic impulse kicks in and I turn on the Sean Hannity Show while I am driving. I sat and listening to a discussion about how the BP oil spill is the fault of: (1) environmentalist, because they pressured oil companies to have to drill further out to sea; (2) Obama, because the liberals blamed Bush for Katrina, so this time it is Obama’s fault; and (3) government regulation, because it makes drilling far more difficult and expensive, leaving less time for managers to focus on maintenance and safety. Never mind the bizarre reasoning. I called in to ask Sean what he thought of the affect on business, in tourism and fishing…I didn’t get through. Maybe tomorrow.

To the conservative punditocracy: What happened to taking “personal responsibility”? What happened to hating bail-outs (unless they are on Bush’s watch) of large corporations? I for one, don’t think BP deserves a welfare check (in the form of clean up services), especially then they have been flagrantly irresponsible. When they applied for their permit to drill, they said: If an oil spill occurs, it is unlikely to have an impact because we have proven methods to respond to such a situation. Now they are saying: There are significant uncertainties in the clean up methods, because we have never used them before. For the most part, they are taking the blame and asking the government for a safety net. Why don’t pull up their boot straps and get a job to pay for it? (Isn’t this what many on the right say to low-income families that need help?)

Some experts estimate that 60,000 barrels of oil continue to pour into the Gulf waters every day. Much of the story has centered on the environmental damage, which is and will be devastating.  The oil will create “dead zone” that will significantly, if not permanently, damage entire ecosystems. But what about the 11 workers that lost their lives? Natalie Roshto and her three-year-old son lost their husband and father, Shane. “He was a very dedicated worker. He was the guy that had his wedding date and his son’s birth date written inside his hard hat.” (Source) What about the fishing industry that is now in the tank? One fisherman said, “I worked 30 year at my business…Now it is shot. I can’t even sell my business, I couldn’t even give my boat away right now.” Another fisherman said, “we are going to be in bad, bad trouble.”

The primary question for me is,  Why do we let this kind of company employ our people and profit off of our national resources? The oil-drilling lease was sold to BP by the George W. Bush administration in 2007 under its 2007-2012 Five-Year Offshore Oil Drilling Plan. The exploratory drilling was approved by Interior Secretary Salazar on April 6, 2009. There were plenty of warning signs before approving this drilling. BP has the worst record of any oil company working in America. In the past several years they have racked up $485 million in fines, with hundreds of workplace violations. These include willful neglect of worker safety rules, environmental crimes, and market manipulation. They have been called a “habitual repeat corporate lawbreaker.” They have pled guilt to two felonies in the past, in Texas and the Arctic region, where people were killed. The refinery explosion in Texas killed 15 and injured 170. Even when they are put on probation, they don’t get their act together. They seem to just budget for the fines, and keep on taking home $6 billion in profits every three months. Why are we giving them a permit to drill off our shores when they have this kind of record? The Department of Justice has concluded that BP under-invested in routine maintenance before the recent spill. In their own investigation report,  presented to congress, they concluded that there were a number of identifiable warning signs prior to the explosion (source). This company is a textbook case study in corporate irresponsibility. Why wasn’t anyone looking for the warning signs, before the warning signs?