The wheels of justice are finally, slowly turning.
This has not been a good month for BP Oil. No sooner had three of the oil giant's employees been slapped with criminal charges than the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was temporarily banned from seeking new contracts with the U.S. government. What's worse, the suspension came only hours before a periodic government sale for drilling rights in the Gulf, making BP ineligible to bid and possibly costing the company some cool billions in profits. On the plus side, though, a settlement with Department of Justice was reached on the criminal BP itself faces, with the company agreeing to plead guilty to felony charges including manslaughter and obstruction of Congress along with paying a tidy little sum of $4.5 billion in penalties.
Does anyone feel sorry for the company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster that sent millions of barrels of crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico more than two years ago, killing 11 workers in the process and making it the largest oil spill in U.S. history? Hardly.
This rig explosion has had a devastating ripple effect on the environment, fishermen, other businesses and people's lives around the Gulf and beyond. BP's inept handling of the situation after the fact and the government's investigation that determined massive cover-ups, gross negligence and inexcusable safety compromises in order to save a buck have left a very bad taste in Americans' mouths for the British company. So everyone should be happy to see that our government is doing its job by not allowing this to be a mere bump in the business road but instead making BP own up to its responsibility and pay dearly for its transgressions.
Long-term environmental and business effects aside, the rig worker victims seem to have gotten lost in this whole thing. Eleven innocent people lost their lives and several others were injured in the explosion. In the media blitz for months following the disaster, a sentence or two would mention these victims, but the focus was primarily on other issues. The enormity of the spill was incomprehensible in itself, even without leaving nearly a dozen deaths in the catastrophe's wake.
With the bulk of the charges filed against the three employees and BP being manslaughter for the 11 deaths, these workers are finally getting the recognition they deserved. While their families are undoubtedly being compensated through a fund BP set up and some could become involved in litigation against the company, when a crime has been committed, the offenders need to pay the personal price as well. It's called justice.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said the criminal investigation is ongoing and more heads could roll before it's all over. Part of BP's plea agreement calls for the company to come up with a plan to address government concerns. The EPA will also probably impose more fines on the largest deep-water leaseholder in the Gulf, which could run up to around $20 billion.
So is this enough to satisfy those close to the case as well as the public? Perhaps, but families are still left with a huge void that will never be filled. They could find some solace and vindication, though, knowing that the wheels of justice they waited so long to see moving are finally doing so.