Wading into the Gulf

The shameful exploitation in the Gulf Coast is certain to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of residents and local businesses – but the blame lies squarely with local officials and not BP

The Deepwater Horizon incident has led to local corruption
On 15 April 2011 10:57

No sooner had the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred in the Gulf Coast last year, than President Barack Obama appeared on televisions screens across the nation vowing to ‘make BP pay’. 

And pay they have, to the tune of $20bn so far. 

But outrageous details have emerged about just what they’ve been paying for, with claims including a $1.1m per month temporary HQ leased to St Bernard Parish council by none other than the sheriff himself.  That price is 647 times the regular rate for such a property.  This is not low level corruption or, if you’ll pardon the expression, a drop in the ocean.

In the words of a local councillor, BP was ‘raped’  by the Parish council but I doubt we’ll see Obama back on TV screens demanding a full investigation and the repayment of the ‘spillions’ extorted from the company – in the same way we’ve never seen the United States take full responsibility for the Union Carbide disaster of 1984 which killed over 15,000 people and seriously affected or injured over half a million.  (Union Carbide paid out $470m in 1989, equivalent to just over $800m today, where as BP’s payout has reached a whopping $20bn).

Or perhaps consider that the United States government’s own National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon spill found ‘bad decisions’ not just from BP, but also the American giants Halliburton and Transocean.  

‘Lax government oversight’ was also noted to be a determining factor in the spill. But Obama and the Gulf Coast authorities found their foreign scapegoat and local authorities have been sucking BP dry ever since. 

Here are some more examples:

-          Police in Ocean Springs, Mississippi have received Taser guns from the spill fund;

-          The Gulfport sewer department bought a $300,000 vacuum truck which has yet to be used;

-          Charlotte Randolph, President of Lafourche Parish bought herself an iPad and her aide a $3000 laptop with the money;

-          The City of Biloxi, MS bought 14 SUVs and pickup trucks for Mayor A.J. Holloway.

Those are just a few of the claims that were approved. 

Since then, BP has rejected requests for a $300,000 ‘mobile command unit’ and even a Harley Davidson motorbike priced at $19,000. 

So where’s the President?  And more importantly – where are British public officials condemning the devious, unscrupulous exploitation of the disaster fund for unrelated personal gain?

Yesterday, businessmen and residents of the Gulf Coast attended BP’s annual general meeting in London, demanding more punitive action for the oil giant.  They would have done well to save their time and money from the trip and head down to their local Parish, the Mayor’s office or the Sheriff’s department to claim what they feel is rightfully theirs – a slice of the Deepwater Horizon pie which has so far served to stuff the coffers of public officials.

Raheem Kassam is the Associate Editor of The Commentator

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