Thursday, June 17, 2010

Joe Barton, the $20 billion shakedown and BP

This whole situation is screwed up four ways to Sunday.

First of all, Barton is right--this is a shakedown. And not just a garden-variety, DC shakedown.  No, this is shakedown of Chicago proportions.  Yesterday, BP agreed to place (at least) $20 billion in an escrow account, which is to be managed by a third party, to help compensate those who have lost jobs or livelihoods to the oil spill disaster.

But secondly, I believe it's a perfectly legal shakedown.  By all accounts, BP voluntarily agreed to the deal, but you can be certain that Mr. Obama made it clear to company officials that if they didn't do it willingly, it would be done to them.  The government can't retroactively force a company to spend money to remediate a disaster for which a law prescribing how remediation is to be paid for already exists.  That's what the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 is for, so the administration's threats were a tad on the hollow side.  If they'd followed through, then we'd have a whole different discussion about the rule of law.

Thirdly, even though it's a shakedown, and probably just fine under existing law, I believe it's a very bad idea, because it's going to open the door to all sorts of fraud, just like we saw after Katrina and the 9/11 fund. It also does not relieve the company of its obligations under OPA, nor will it provide any immunity from current and sure-to-come future litigation.

Fourth, even though Barton was right, and even though it's a very bad idea, he was still stuck on stupid when he apologized to the CEO of the company who's screwed up safety procedures led to the worst environmental catastrophe in the Gulf since Ixtoc blew out and spilled (by some estimates) 200 million gallons of crude.

BP, the whole United States Congress, the whole executive branch, and every last environmentalist group should look at the American people, and apologize.  BP should apologize for screwing up their safety protocols, killing 11 men and spilling crude into the Gulf.  The government should apologize for the abysmal failure in oversight manifested in the Minerals Management Service.  And all those environmental wacks should apologize for pushing oil and gas exploration far enough off shore that they don't have to look at the rigs.  Absolutely none of the above have served the interests of this country, and they should all be shaken down.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.