Thursday, July 16, 2015

Turns out dumping oil all over the coastline wasn't the best way to save it

Go figure.
Hopes that the Deepwater Horizon would be a larger economic boon to the Master Plan always rested on BP being held to maximum penalties for fines under the Clean Water Act and restitution required under the Natural Resources Damage Assessment. Some of those estimates ranged as high as $22 billion for Louisiana alone.

For example, BP faced a maximum fine of $13.4 billion for Clean Water Act violations based on the judge’s rulings on the amount of oil spilled and that “gross negligence” on the part of the company led to the accident.

However, the settlement allows BP to pay only $5.5 billion for the Clean Water Act fines.

The RESTORE Act, championed by Louisiana’s congressional delegation, will split 80 percent of that, or $4.4 billion, between the five Gulf states. Louisiana’s share comes to about $800 million.

The state always figured to do better under for the Natural Resources Damage Assessment, and it does.

That process measures how much damage the oil did to fish, wildlife and wetlands, and presents the bill to the polluter.  Some estimates put Louisiana’s possible take from a complete damage assessment — which was underway when the settlement was reached — as high as $12 billion. But the oil giant stopped that process by agreeing to pay $7.3 billion to all five states and the federal government.

Since most of the oil landed on Louisiana’s coast, it will receive 76.8 percent of that total, $5 billion.
Now the reality of the situation is, had BP been pressed for the maximum penalties, it's unlikely they would have ever paid anything close to what they'd been assessed.  The precedent there is Exxon; fined $5 billion for the Valdez spill, they were able to fight that back down to $500 million over a 20 year appeals war of attrition.  

So while the BP settlement is far less than the law technically entitles us to, it's also far more than we could have reasonably expected and far sooner. Still, in all, it's far far less than Louisiana will need to get going with coastal restoration efforts. So the idea that despoiling the wetlands with petroleum represented any "last best hope" to save them is every bit as absurd a proposition as it sounds.

Hey, also, the Rising Tide X schedule is starting to roll out this week.  The future of the Louisiana coast.. and by implication the city of New Orleans.. will again be a heavy topic there. Take a look at the program here.  

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