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In 2010, BP Oil’s huge drilling platform, Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico failed causing one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history. Thousands of homes and businesses were ruined, marine life and fowl life were killed or harmed, and beaches were destroyed. BP made a deal with the government to provide $20 billion dollars to clean up the mess and assist victims. Should companies like BP do more to clean up after themselves than is federally required of them by law?
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The US chemical safety board concluded in its report that the spill was a result of poor coordination of effort between BP and the contractor hired to do the drilling with their own drilling rig, not a BP rig. BP seems to have thought that since the job was contracted, their own main focus could be worker safety, ironic since eleven workers were killed in the explosion. What this implies is that the first thing BP and similar companies might do to contribute to oil spills is not to cause them (or to not cause them, if you don't mind a split infinitive).
Step one on this line would be to have the same standards for contractor owned equipment as for BP owned equipment. Co-chair of the US oil spill investigation, senator Bob Graham, FL, called this spilt standard "reprehensible," while Donald Winter, chair of the National Academy of Engineering investigation, pointed out that worker safety and rig system integrity are "fundamentally different" concerns. BP's second step would be to prioritize safety concerns correctly and to superintend rig safety themselves and not delegate rig safety to contractors.
As to after-the-fact doing more is harder to pinpoint according to BP, they spent $14 billion on their share of the clean up. While BP has deep pockets, one wonders if their pockets can really go much deeper than that without causing another disaster resulting in laying off employees and causing an economic "spill." Rather than after-the-fact increase in responsibility, I'd favor before-the-fact increased responsibility where public announcements of actions taken for supervision of contractors and for increased assurance of rig integrity (while not neglecting worker safety) are published next to the applicable government regulations, perhaps in Wall Street Journal. This might make watchdogs of the whole country.
BP Website Deepwater Horizon accident page: We have acted to take responsibility for the clean-up working under the direction of the federal government, to respond swiftly to compensate people affected by the impact of the accident, to look after the health, safety and welfare of the large number of residents and people who helped respond to the spill and to support the economic recovery of the Gulf Coast’s tourism and seafood industries impacted by the spill. As at 31 December 2011, we had spent $14 billion on our response activities. Throughout, we have sought to work closely with government, local residents, our shareholders, employees, the wider industry and the media. (BP)
I think that a company like BP might get some good press by doing more than the government requires. After all, people do not think highly of BP. It would be a good association for them to show that they actually are not black and heartless.
It certainly would be charitable of companies to do more than they are required to do, but we could hardly expect them to do so. In some situations, companies might consider the public relations value of doing more than required to make it worthwhile.
The public could pressure companies to do more, if they had the resources to make themselves heard, or if the media took up their cause.
Sure. Companies such as BP should especially be more responsible in cleaning up after themselves, since 1) they rely on extraction of resources using waterways and lands that belong to everyone, and 2) they have a horrible track record (Deepwater Horizon spill) when it comes to the environment.
What they should do and what they will do are, of course, very different things unfortunately. Environmental cleanup of oil spills and waste is very expensive, and companies that have tens and sometimes hundreds of billions of dollars in annual profits have a lot of influence on government law and policy. So as long as profit is at stake and government is so heavily dependent on industry donations and job creation, I expect little to change anytime soon.
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