On the morning of Monday, February 25, NGO members, sportsmen, fishermen, students, and community leaders gathered outside the Hale Boggs U.S. Courthouse in New Orleans to remind everyone of the need to hold BP accountable for the nation’s largest environmental disaster. Inside the courthouse, the first phase of the BP trial began.
Gulf Coast residents sick from inhaling fumes and dispersants, struggling from loss of livelihood, and eager in anticipation to finally see justice prevail after almost three years have passed since the spill may have to wait an additional three months as Judge Carl Barbier uses this phase of the trial to determine the cause of the blowout and assign percentages of blame to the companies involved. The trial’s second phase, set for September, will determine exactly how much oil leaked and how much BP should be fined.
“The evidence will show that BP put profits before people, profits before safety, and profits before the environment,” Justice Department attorney Mike Underhill said in his opening statement, arguing that the disaster resulted from BP’s “culture of corporate recklessness.”
“Money mattered more to BP than the Gulf, much more,” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange told the Judge.
BP executives applied “huge financial pressure” to “cut costs and rush the job,” said Jim Roy, a representative for individuals and businesses whose lives were damaged by the spill. Roy explained that the drilling project was behind schedule and more than $50 million over budget when the spill occurred.
Underhill and the prosecution argued that BP should be found guilty of “gross negligence,” a charge that will make BP’s fines four times higher than if they are only found guilty of “negligence.” Blame from all sides has been directed at BP and the company’s only hope is to argue that Transocean, the company operating the Deepwater Horizon, and Halliburton, designer of the cement job meant to seal the well against leaks, are also partially at fault.
We are thrilled to finally see the oil industry receiving the critical attention it deserves in the worldwide media. Beyond the BP drilling disaster, accidents are consistent and pervasive. Listed here are reminders of oil industry damage occurring daily. An oil rig belonging to Taylor Energy has been leaking since hurricane Ivan in 2004, Exxon Mobile Baton Rouge released 31,000 lbs of benzene in June 2012, last month St. Bernard Parish residents’ cars were soaked in oil from a release at Exxon Mobile Chalmette, and we receive regular reports to the iWitness Pollution Map about accidents all over the state. We will continue pushing for industry accountability to become a priority and vanguard our public health for the future of our families.