Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Deeptrouble, June 1st, 2010: Justice opens civil and criminal investigations into oil spill

Welcome to the third installment of Deeptrouble, an NPI Advocate special series intended to visually chronicle the immense devastation wrought on the Gulf Coast by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Surface ships making their way through oily, polluted oceanToday's photo was taken by Daniel Beltra for Greenpeace from aboard an aircraft flying near the area where the Deepwater Horizon rig was once moored. It depicts surface ships making their way through oily, polluted ocean.

This afternoon, in New Orleans, Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed that the Department of Justice is launching civil and criminal investigations into the Deepwater Horizon disaster, including the explosion that destroyed the rig (which claimed the lives of eleven workers) and the subsequent oil spill that is tainting the Gulf Coast with a filthy black film.

"[W]e must also ensure that anyone found responsible for this spill is held accountable," Holder told reporters. "That means enforcing the appropriate civil – and if warranted, criminal – authorities to the full extent of the law."

Holder proceeded to provide a list of applicable statutes that the people's attorneys are reviewing. That list is as follows:
  • The Clean Water Act, which carries civil penalties and fines as well as criminal penalties;
  • The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can be used to hold parties liable for cleanup costs and reimbursement for government efforts;
  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Acts, which provide penalties for injury and death to wildlife and bird species; and,
  • Other traditional criminal statutes.
"There are a wide range of possible violations under these statutes, and we will closely examine the actions of those involved in this spill," Holder declared.

"If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response. We have already instructed all relevant parties to preserve any documents that may shed light on the facts surrounding this disaster. As our review expands in the days ahead, we will be meticulous, we will be comprehensive, and we will be aggressive. We will not rest until justice is done."

We at NPI very much hope that these words are backed up with action. It's about time that Baleful Petroleum, Halliburton, and Transocean were held accountable for their environmental crimes. Their carelessness is destroying entire ecosystems.

The government also ought to order a halt to all other existing drilling operations in U.S. waters until the rigs can pass rigorous, extremely thorough safety and environmental checks. Considering the lax oversight exhibited by the Minerals Management Service, we have no way of knowing if there's another ticking time bomb about to go off and cause another environmental catastrophe.

Furthermore, no further offshore drilling leases should be sold, or permits granted... ever. Deepwater Horizon has proved that offshore drilling is unsafe, just like nuclear power. The idea that more drilling can bring about energy security is just as big as an oxymoron as clean coal. More rigs off our coasts will not free us from the grip of fossil fuels. It will only make an existing problem worse.

It's time for a massive federal investment in renewable energy, and it's time for an aggressive new national conservation plan. That's the proper long term response to this disaster. We can't continue to treat symptoms and not address causes.


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