BP Gets Off Easy

On Thursday, oil giant BP pled guilty to 14 charges related to the 2010 gulf oil spill and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines. Despite being the largest settlement in our nation’s history, it’s nothing compared to the actual damage BP did to our nation two years ago. A senior investigator with Greenpeace said the settlement, “fails every aspect of the common accepted notion of penalty.” And a spokesperson with Public Citizens responded to the settlement saying, “We’re stunned. This settlement is pathetic…The point of the criminal justice system is twofold: to punish and deter. This does neither.”

Over the course of three months, BP’s oil well spewed 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, choking marine life, blanketing coastlines, and ruining small businesses. Public Citizen estimates that total amount of damage caused by the spill at more than $50 billion dollars, yet BP is liable for $4.5 billion, which is less money than the corporation makes in just three months. There is still possibility that two workers at BP will face manslaughter charges and take the fall for the deaths of 11 men when the oil rig exploded. But ultimately, there will be no lasting punishment for BP, which has gone back to business as usual punching holes in our Gulf of Mexico.

This was the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history, and if that isn’t enough reason to give BP the corporate death penalty and revoke their corporate charter, then I don’t know what is. Corporations have run roughshod over our nation for too long, it’s time to restrain them like Teddy Roosevelt did after the Robber Baron Era.


Global's picture
Global 10 years 28 weeks ago

Again, the compasionate liberal Thom Hartman through this tragedy wants to make it worse by killing BP. What about the accountant with two kids making $75000 per year -- screw them they can collect unemployment. Liberals never did care about creating jobs they just want the power to control your life. But remember they hate oil companies, they want you to pay $10.00 per gallon of gas to save the environment. The mindset of the destructive liberal is warped.

klentz's picture
klentz 10 years 28 weeks ago

Killing BP is a little radical. Just make them pay completely for any damage they do If it results in $10.00/ gal gas so be it. All the more motivation to get out of oil and into the many alternatives.

Keep in mind that punishing BP should only result in BP gas at $10.00/gal. They have plenty of competition. Unless they are all in collusion??????

And today Gulf pulls a repeat. Maybe it was a "sympathy" blowout for BP.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 10 years 28 weeks ago

The assets would most likely be reconstituted into new oil companies (which just might behave better). It's not like no one would fill the vacuum. Jobs wouldn't permanently disappear.

ckrob's picture
ckrob 10 years 28 weeks ago

Global, your comments seem to be, in essence, that BP should be able to screw people and the environment and get away with it because they’re the big boys on the block. The costs of damages were thought to be reasonable by a conservative Federal Court based on evidence submitted and after critique by BP. I suspect that BP is breathing easier after this slap on its metaphorical wrist.

2011 BP profits were $24.7 billion. The $4.5 billion fine represents about 18 percent of profits in one year. The profit figure is after the accountant gets his $75,000 so he’s not affected much unless he gets a lot of stock dividends and BP executives will probably still get their bonuses.

Control of lives is certainly a primary feature of corporate functioning where the accountant doesn’t get a vote on what happens to him unlike his relation to government about which he can vote and agitate. Try agitating in your average corporation and guess what you would get?

BenMac84's picture
BenMac84 10 years 28 weeks ago

I was just listening to your hershey bar analogy for BP. It reminded me of when one of my college classmates ate three bananas while waiting in line late in the evening at a convenience store. When he got to the front of the line, he gave the clerk the peels to weigh. This is BP's approach. Take all the good stuff and pay a fine which is equivalent to the value of the peels.

ken ware's picture
ken ware 10 years 28 weeks ago

Kend- In your last posted comment, you asked where do I reside, after I commented that Canada is a frozen lake. I have been a resident in Southern California for all of my life, with the exception of my tour of duty with the United States Air force during the Vietnam War. You do remember that conflict that costs over 58,000 American lives and 2,000,000 Vietnamese lives. I have lived in an area called the South Bay and my home is 3 miles from the ocean’s edge. We have the best weather in the 48 continental states. Presently the temperature is 68 degrees with a 5 mile an hour breeze off the ocean. I am able to wear my traditional short pants with my "surfer style" t-shirts about 340 days of the year. On our worst weather days it may rain for 2-3 days and during those days I am still able to walk my daily routine of 5 miles. I know the majority of people in other less fortunate states see California as this economically poor, earthquake ravaged state. When in reality it has been decades since we have experienced an earthquake or fire that has taken lives. We, unlike the nation, have just passed a proposition to increase the taxes (by a few points) on individuals who make more than $250.000 a year to help fund our school system and a prop. to save our Teacher Unions. The RE-publinuts from within our state and some like the Koch brothers outside of our state, spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat these new propositions and they failed. In fact a Pac that was indirectly funded by the Koch’s is in the process of being charged with illegal money laundering to throw the election, by the Commission concerning elections and fraud in California. The Koch brothers used a third party Pac to funnel the illegal funds so they couldn't be charged directly and therefore skirting the law! Typical billionaires who use others to commit their crimes so they will not be charged directly, very much like the people who run B.P. They were afraid if the prop.'s passed here it would catch on in other states and go nationally! They lost again, as in the National election for the White House and our Democrat Senators were re-elected again. We have perfect weather and the 11th largest economy in the World. That is right the World not just here in the states. And that is why I jokingly call your country of Canada a frozen lake. This state of ours is primarily a blue Democrat state and it really pisses off the Republicans because we have the largest electoral vote in our nation. Hope that answers your question. I expect the right wing self-centered RE-publinuts to make disparaging remarks about California and that is what I expect from those less fortunate from the right to make about the Golden State as it is called. This has nothing to do with Thom's blog, but I wanted to answer your question and show how the super wealthy like the corporations will do anything to avoid paying their fair share, just like B.P. has done in their money saving schemes that resulted in the destruction of the Gulf, La. wetlands, businesses, jobs and lives. Typical mind set of the Corporations and their ability to fool people like the ilk that calls himself Global. These Republi-nuts will try to defend corporations when they have actually admitted to the crime. And, like the Koch brother Republicans they will always find someone else to take the fall for them! Sounds a lot like Romney blaming the President for giving gifts like lifesaving medical coverage for his loss of the election. When primarily he was rejected by the majority of the citizens that voted. Democracy is great as long as they win and a sham when they lose and cannot accept the rejection. Have a great frozen weekend! I will be walking in the sunshine as usual......

ken ware's picture
ken ware 10 years 28 weeks ago

Global: Come on, really! So you in your infinite wisdom know what all progressives and Democrats want! You sound as pathetic as Rummy Romney trying to blame President Obama of buying votes by giving them gifts like lifesaving medical insurance! Making sure everyone has medical insurance is a plan to control lives? It sounds more like a plan to make sure the presently uninsured do not have to end up in the very costly emergency rooms of our nation’s hospitals. I guess you RE-publinuts are still pissed your man and his billionaire supporters were not able to buy the national and state elections. Sore losers! B.P. admitted they were to blame for this crime against our citizens and our environment. They politically purchased themselves a ridiculously low fine that is so low as to make one laugh at it. And they have avoided criminal charges against the real people who created this catastrophe the C.E.O. and the management of B.P. With no real consequences for their crimes they will do the same thing over and over again. And, God only knows what their next crime will result in doing to mankind and our environment for increased profits! As long as they can continue to make billions with their irresponsible behavior they have no incentive to change how they criminally make their profits. As a Republican you really are not concerned about what the crimes where, just as long as you can bitch about how much it might cost you personally. Corporations are going around the World and destroying the environment and lives in countries with even less strict laws then we have. Thom is right on this one, the punishment does not fit the crimes they committed and now some low level management personnel will be sacrificed to keep the fat cats on top in power. Wake up and smell the oil, you and your family if you have any will have to live in the same polluted environment as the rest of us and B.P. will just dance away to destroy what is left of this place we all call mother Earth! And no I am no an environmentalist, I am just smart enough to realize when criminals get away with their crimes they will just go out and commit more!!

akunard's picture
akunard 10 years 28 weeks ago

Obama let them off the hook! All that money goes into the U.S. Treasury not the poor people of the gulf who were put out of business and other wise harmed. And as you indicated it's pocket change for them!!!!

leighmf's picture
leighmf 10 years 28 weeks ago

We should Kill BP because BP is Standard Oil + British Petroleum, two tyrannical kingdoms bullying free enterprise. Never forget, the Redcoats paid the Indians to scalp white settlers when they came too close to the good lands.

We should also address the issue of corruption in the environmental protection agencies with jurisdiction over BP activity in the Gulf. How much work was done without Permitting and Bond posting? Is the enforcement action correct according to their own standards?

Every impact on wetlands requires a Permit to which are attached penalty conditions.

Those so impacted by BP have a way to assess whether or not 4.5 billion is in accordance with the fines and penalties which are required by Law.

For example, a citizen in Florida who cuts down three mangrove trees for a water view can be fined $10,000/day for failure to complete an expensive plan of mitigation, which must be quarterly monitored, reported on, and demonstrate an 80% survival rate at the end of 5 years.

BP by federal law was required to agree to all permit conditions which include remediation for environmental damage. There are guidelines for fines and late penalties which BP agreed to in writing. To know if 4.5 billion is fair, the public should be informed how many square feet of wetland were impacted and how many dollars/ft. fine was assessed. Is this in line with what would be charged any other violator?

Whereas the environmental agency department heads could answer these questions, and it is public information, they will not say a word. This is public information which is tedious and difficult to interpret- it has to come from the filing cabinets of several departments and it has to be evaluated by someone who will read engineering plans and volumes of dredge and fill permit requirements and attorney letters.

This is why I wonder why Greenpeace or other environmental watch organizations will not put their money behind revealing and publicizing what can be obtained from public records searching. We need permit-doggers who check to see if environmental agencies are actively enforcing permits fairly for everyone.

In my county, they are not. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been collected in monitoring fees for mitigation projects which have never taken place.

leighmf's picture
leighmf 10 years 28 weeks ago

Regarding the wrongful deaths, surely there is an army of attys clamoring to be hired.

dhelm's picture
dhelm 10 years 28 weeks ago

Since BP is a "person" and since they have now been convicted of felonies, they should no longer be allowed to enter into contracts with the federal government. Additionally, this "corporate person" should be sentenced to an appropriate prison term.

KassandraTroy's picture
KassandraTroy 10 years 28 weeks ago

Unfortunately, Obama is no FDR. In fact, he's busily dismantling the rest of the New Deal as we speak.

PhilipHenderson's picture
PhilipHenderson 10 years 28 weeks ago

This was not a penalty at all. BP is a criminal entity similar to the old style Mafia. They kill their employees without fear of being held responsible. They damage the Gulf of Mexico and drive out of business thousands of local business people who operate on the coast. They put hundreds of thousands of people out of work with this deadly stream of poison they released in the environment. The only excuse for their bad behavior is that to do the work properly would take them too long and cost them profits. Profits are the only goal of BP if the environment is destroyed they will just take their oil rigs to another location, pay off some local politicians and continue their work. I would rather see all the top executives who were in the chain of command to be held personally responsible for the deaths of the eleven employees and the rehabilitation of the dozens of men seriously hurt in the explosion and fire. I would rather see those men taken to prison for a term not shorter than 11 years and not longer than 20 years. I would rather see the personal fortunes of those men destroyed in the process. That would give a message to oil rig operators that there is a real cost to irresponsible behavior. I would insist on BP being fined for its criminal behavior but it is more important to break up the mafia like leadership of the company. They behave just like organized crime lords; the only punishment that makes them cringe is to be placed in prison.

Kend's picture
Kend 10 years 28 weeks ago

Thanks for the reply Ken. I love S. California. Good for you to live there it doesn't get much better than that. I admire everyone who serves. It doesn't mean I am going to agree with you though. Candians have fought shoulder to shoulder in every war with the US with two exceptions. One was Vietnam and the other was the war of 1812 when we where invaded by the United States. We where badly out numbered but still drove the US back and even took Fort Detroit. Funny thing is we just left it and went back home. Maybe not a bad move. LOL. I bet they don't tell you about that in US history books. I do have a condo in Scottsdale AZ and spend as much of the winter there as I can. I have two business to run here so my time down there is limited. Hopefully more some day. I love Scottsdale it the only place in the world you and golf a different course everyday and eat a different resturant everynight. You should come up here some time. I live in Calgary but I am only a 45 minute drive to Banff AB (google banff it is stunning). Thom should have a get together for all of us once a year so we could have a few beers and argue. I hope Globel comes I am going to be out numbered.

For todays topic they do need to tighten up the regulations down there that spill should have never happened. That rig only had one set of blow out preventors in Canada a off shore rig has to have three. Just google Hibernia and look and our rigs then look at the ones in the gulf sadly there is no comparision. Thom mentioned Green Peace, it was founded by Canadians.

Its to bad that everyone picks on the oil companies they are the only industry left that pays well and has great benifits. I spent many years in the oil patch and can tell you the people that work there are incredible. They have to spend may nights away from their familys in horrible conditions but no one ever complains. I can also tell you that 99% of all accidents are from human error. Anybody that worked on the rigs knows someone can't live with themself because they know so men lost there live because they screwed up.

Rey Hinckley's picture
Rey Hinckley 10 years 28 weeks ago

I am not surprised that they got off so easy. I wonder whose oil rig blew up today in the Gulf of Mexico. I understand that 2 people were killed and several are missing.

I'm just wondering if this was done intentionally so that if more oil is found that it will be assumed to be coming from the new blow out as opposed to newly discovered oil from the BP Horizon.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 10 years 28 weeks ago

Does it really matter what fine BP has to pay? We all know they'll just pass it on to the consumer.

Now, if that fine had to come out of the PERSONAL pockets of the upper echelon, it would be a different matter.

historywriter's picture
historywriter 10 years 28 weeks ago

Curious comment, Global. It doesn't make any sense factually, ideologically, or in any other way. No, we liberals are not trying to destroy BP, we are trying not to destroy ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. BP isn't dead yet (unfortunately, since they all seem to be a bunch of ethically and legally challenged owners and managers). These companies do not care about the dead workers or the dead wild life or the dead zones in the gulf. You may not know this, but you and I and every other part of our world and its people are interconnected. What affects the Gulf affects you and me and everyone else. Do we save our planet? Do we save the diversity of our species? Do we clear out the rainforests with its multiple, rolling consequences. All of these things that are detrimental to a specific area are detrimental to all of us; if we wipe out a particular insect or butterfly or, say the bees, we will have serious problems on our hands.

You think Sandy, Katrina, and all the other calamities are just accidents that won't happen again? Do you think the abornally warm, dry climate has some cause? Or the wildfires? Or the drought? Or the huge rise in the number of severity of tornados.

I wonder what your username Global means to you. .

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 10 years 28 weeks ago


The accountant doesn't have to work for BP. Some jobs, employers and industries don't need to be saved. Drug dealers might need to work somewhere else at something else too (even though that's often the only work in the ghetto).

Our society could benefit from a little more planning for the economy.

Liberals are the BEST at job creation. They understand that you, me, THE CONSUMER, is the job creator, NOT the one percenter.

Global's picture
Global 10 years 28 weeks ago

Thanks for the props Kend, I too am a second generation oil patcher. Never in my many years of experience have I seen anything but good solid citizens in the industry always trying to do the right thing. i think the general public has a misconception of what we are all about and the media enjoys playing on the fever. Also respect Ken W for his service but his politics need a little more enlightening. Liberty and freedom of choice are too valuble and the bedrock of this great country to ignore for the fleeting promise of security by a bunch of temporary politicians.

nora's picture
nora 10 years 28 weeks ago

I agree.

And not only should BP lose its USA lincensing, ALL OIL COMPANIES should lose the ability to push around the rest of us. All the perks given to the oil companies must end -- like the freedom to pollute, freedom from ant-trust prosecution, and that silly DEPLETION ALLOWANCE -- all must be repealed now.

And do it quick, because the PUBLIC RELATIONS PEOPLE HAVE BEEN HEARD, and pretty soon there won't be any BP to point to, because it will be purchased/absorbed by another corporation which will claim ALL INNOCENCE from BP's sins! (If corporations are people, is this to be considered the Cannibalism Ploy???)

astroenergy's picture
astroenergy 10 years 28 weeks ago

No friend of BP but Tom and others have failed to acknowledge that Obama made BP pay 20 billion in cleanup damages and there are hundreds of suits waiting trial that will run the number up. Since BP has admitted their fault it is fairly certain most of the cases will go against them. Additionally, there still some criminal cases in process. No question the damage by their recklessness was great, but they are being to pay big- time, as they should.

guy dashnea's picture
guy dashnea 10 years 28 weeks ago

They got off easy, as expected. They are part of the establishment, and protected by the SYSTEM. There is no room in a capitilist system for fairness, morality, or human rights. The head of the federal trade commission was being questioned by, then Senator Hillery Clinton. She was asking about the actions of Chevron Oil companys actions after the Valdeze oil spill.

Hillery: Is what they are doing fair?

Commissioner: No.

Hillery: Is what they are doing moral?

Commissioner: No.

Hillery; Is what they are doing legal?

Commissioner: Yes.

This is in the archives of C-Span. The oil companies are not the only ones that fall in the catagory of immoral and unfair, but legal. The political system is corrupted by unfetterd capitilism. If this was a government "Of the People, By the People and For the People", Robber Barons would not exist. NATIONALIZE. withdraw from the WTO, quite turning our natural resources over to the Robber Barons of the world. There is no way "We the People" can take BACK America. WE NEVER HAD IT!!

TambourineT's picture
TambourineT 10 years 28 weeks ago

BP are a DISGRACE! And they have been for MANY MANY Years. BP should be denied the "British" in their title as many British people, like myself, consider BP a MONSTER and want nothing to do with them. BP should be charged with Corporate Murder. I don't agree with the Death Penalty but I do think BP should be disbanded and all their Millions should be put into a Trust Fund to help the people, wildlife and Mother Earth to recover and renew from BP's devastating actions. SHAME ON YOU BP! And all those who work at BP

bobcox's picture
bobcox 10 years 28 weeks ago

If corporations are "people" they should be penalized like people. The death penalty is still on the federal penalty list. The solution is to confiscate all property held by BP within the governments jurisdiction and sell them off to competitors at market prices.

The problem with current practices with non-penalty fines is that the corporate Supreme Court will reduce the fines so that their dividends are not affected.

Further comment: Wish you had spellChek!

Samuel Bryan 24 10 years 28 weeks ago

"Make it worse by killing BP". NOT

Sell the working assets of the Corp., with the workers getting first option.

It is top management that needs punishment, along with the owners that allowed for crime.

Falkenbird's picture
Falkenbird 10 years 28 weeks ago

The punishment obviously does not fit the crime, and since you cannot put corporations in jail, and corporations are now viewed as persons, perhaps we need to take the jail to the corporation. I would like to see BP forced to hire environmentalist,engineers scientists, and many other observers at all levels of corporation. In short, a small army of observers that would monitor and watch the company at all levels of operation. This could create hundreds of high level jobs and of course all should be done at BP expense.

ScottFromOz 10 years 28 weeks ago

If "Corporatations are people my friends" then they should be treated like people in the eyes of the law. Would a Real person be just be fined for killing 11 people? I don't think so.

If the people who run corporations want those corporations to have the same rights as real people, then those corporations (and the people who run them) should have the same legal responsibilities and penalties as real people. We'll probably see a couple of lower middle managers go to jail, but the real criminals that set the company policies, those at the top will skate off scot-free as always.

bobcox's picture
bobcox 10 years 28 weeks ago

Perhaps this is not the place fot my comment but I hear that two or three billionaires have gone together to control Hostess and are using their long practiced bankruptcy ploy to rob the prnsion trust fund of Hostess's employees and get in another "Destroy the Unions" mantra. Also that Ann Romnwy's blind trust made something like $115,000,000.00 from the Tarp funds when Delco Remy properties was sold back tp GM.

Mark Saulys's picture
Mark Saulys 10 years 28 weeks ago

Never in your many years of experience have you ever seen anything but good solid citiens trying to do the right thing? Now we know who you shill for.

Kend's picture
Kend 10 years 28 weeks ago

You all say that as you drive your car, bus, plane, train or turn up your heat or air cond. , turn your gas stove, drive on your paved roads. Use your cell phones, computers, Tupperware or anything else made of plastics. And what about all your pension plans that have oil stock. Maybe you should just thank the hard working people who bring you those luxuries we can't all work a 7 1/4 hour/day, 6 week holidays with 25 sick day government job. Someone has to pay the bills.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 10 years 28 weeks ago

"Maybe you should just thank the hard working people who bring you those luxuries..." (a legend in their own minds...aren't they?)
Yes, some are "hard working people" ...the workers...but they arn't the ones who are stealing all the big bucks..and making criminally devious decisions to risk peoples lives in order to maximize profits....it's the ones at the top...the top execs and major stock holders. They are the ones adding to the misery of those at the bottom. And I suppose a few people may actually watch those BP commercials without throwing up!

If those at the top of the BP imperium were truly held accountable...(the guillotine would be too good for them).. they should at least be stripped of all their wealth and property...ill gotten gains they stole from us...and thrown into prison for life.

Corporations are people, remember? When people commit murder..especially mass murder..and wreck the ecosystem and economy to such a horrendous extent...they should pay the price...and not continue to live opulently while shifting the "costs" of their "slap on the wrist" penalties on to the customers. Letting these people get off the hook so easily is just as much of a "moral hazard" as the US bailouts of the casino capitalists who have wrecked our economy resulting in the hardship and even deaths of thousands of people. This Empire is collapsing fast! A sinking ship. Hopefully, the people will be so ticked off that they will force the Democrats to actually bring some justice for them...but a "slap on the wrist" miniscule fine is not a good start.

Right on, Thom Hartman! Keep up the good work! Tell it like it is!

riverside's picture
riverside 10 years 28 weeks ago

Hi Thom

BP was billed 4 billion but the TAXPAYERS are going to PAY for it: Either with taxes.. Or subsidies. Or at the pump.

Tell me I'm wrong.

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