Sustainability and Climate Change Issue Update: Lawsuits in the Wake of the Oil Spill

The Gulf Coast BP oil leak has been plugged with cement. The White House says that 75% of the oil has been captured, burned, evaporated, or dissipated into Gulf waters. BP has reduced cleanup workers' pay and is sending its workers home (or in some cases back to jail.) Is that the end of it? Not exactly...

  • The world science community contends that 50 - 60 million gallons of escaped oil are still in the Gulf. The dispersant Corexit that BP dumped into the water in quantities far more than EPA had authorized is known to cause internal bleeding and kidney damage. Plus, some are worried about the large amounts of the less discussed toxic greenhouse gasmethane, which persists as a result of the dispersant.
  • If you're wondering why they used Corexit - when less toxic alternatives were available - one explanation could be that the company is owned by former oil execs. Additionally, Corexit may be helpful in hiding the mess that's been created. The chemical earned the name "hides-it" during the Exxon Valdez cleanup effort when it was used to push the oil underwater where it's harder to seeRolling Stone also reported that in a different effort to avoid bad publicity, BP is shredding sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins at sea, before bringing them to shore and disposing of their remains to keep it out of public view.
  • Dispelling concern about the impact of the spill seems to be a top priority for BP, which has been offering $250 an hour to university scientists in the Gulf to consult for the company as it prepares to defend against lawsuits - under the condition that the scientists not release their findings to anyone else. There's a lot at stake here: under the Clean Water Act, a federal court could slap BP with a fine of $4,300/barrel of oil spilled.
  • On top of that, Transocean (the company that owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon rig under contract with BP) has disclosed that they are facing approximately 250 lawsuits brought by injured oil rig workers, unemployed fishermen and hotel owners. BP is currently offering some injured parties lump sum paymentsif they'll sign an agreement that bars them from suing the oil company later. This may seem like an attractive option for those with one of the 39,000 unpaid claims made on the $20-billion BP fund that Obama negotiated.
  • Meanwhile, BP and the Administration say that it is safe to resume eating fish from the Gulf. Obama even served it to his guests for his recent 49th Birthday Party at the White House. Most state waters have been re-opened to commercial and charter fishing, despite reports of crabs with black-tainted gills and oily shrimp. But hey, even after reports of the sickness it can cause, persistent beachgoers are still taking dips in the gulf's water.

How is the music community responding to the ongoing issue? Musicians including Mos Def and Eddie Vedder are writing songs about it. Others like Jack Johnson are raising money and awareness around gulf relief and Korn is talking big about BP boycotts. Music fans like you can take action locally on 10/10/10 with, writing a letter to Congress, pledging to vote this year or contributing to a new dispersant water quality testing program.