In a key investigative report released on September 14, the US government heaped most of the blame for last year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on BP. The British company now faces a raft of criminal and civil litigation and billions of dollars in potential damages.
The report concluded that BP violated federal regulations, ignored safety concerns and crucial warnings, and made careless decisions during the cementing of the well nearly two kilometres underwater.
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“That report summarised what we already knew, and it will help establish the punitive damage case against the defendant [BP],” New Orleans-based attorney Stuart Smith, representing more than 1,000 cases against BP, told Al Jazeera.
Smith, along with many other lawyers representing clients with lawsuits against BP, believes it may well take BP $30bn to cover all the cases against it.
|1) Outrage continues along the Gulf Coast as BP denies residents compensation for loss of livelihood and ignore financial claims resulting from the growing health crisis [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|2) Stuart Smith, a New Orleans-based attorney, is handling more than 1,000 cases against BP in the wake of the oil disaster. Smith has been involved in litigation against the oil and gas industry for 25 years, and recently told Al Jazeera that he believes there could be huge settlements as a result of mounting evidence of BP’s criminal negligence [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|3) There are more than 3,000 oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, a large number of them off Louisiana’s coast. A 2003 study by the Louisiana Energy Policy Advisory Commission concluded, ‘Louisiana’s economy is more dependent on energy … than any other state except Alaska’ [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|4) During the oil cleanup efforts in the wake of BP’s disaster in April 2010, fishermen, who could no longer fish because the fishing areas were filled with oil, were hired by BP to help with cleanup. It was common at that time to see fishing boats stocked with oil boom where normally they would hang fishing nets. Those who accepted the job with BP’s Vessels of Opportunity programme (VOO) were asked to sign a document waiving them of their rights to sue the company for any damages at a later date [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|5) In September 2011, Al Jazeera saw many signs and billboards across Louisiana and Mississippi advertising legal assistance in both filing and fighting oil claims [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|6) Dean Blanchard, owner of one of the largest seafood distributors in Louisiana, recently told Al Jazeera that he is still finding BP’s oil washing up in the marshlands. He also said that dead dolphins are being found almost daily, and that fishing waters off certain coastal areas of Louisiana are producing only one per cent of the shrimp they normally yield [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|7) Only about one-third of the claims submitted to BP by residents and fisherman have been paid, with the average claimant receiving about $16,000. Given that the US Department of Health and Human Services states that the 2009 poverty threshold for a family of three was $18,310, many feel that BP’s compensation is inadequate for their loss of livelihood [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|8) One of many BP staging areas, from which they operated their Vessels of Opportunity cleanup programme. Despite BP’s cleanup efforts in 2010, oil still remains in the waters and marshlands, and there is an increasing number of health issues from ongoing exposure to BP’s oil and dispersants [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|9) On a recent visit to Port Fourchon, Louisiana, Al Jazeera found evidence that BP left their oil spill prevention materials behind, littering the environment. Shown here is a barricade (at right), made of wood and bags of sand, that was intended to stop oil from washing up onto the beaches where it could harm humans and wildlife and contaminate the environment. The barricade was not high enough to block polluted water at high tide from spilling over and contaminating the ecosystem on the other side [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|10) The Centre for Biological Diversity (CBD) is suing BP under the Clean Water Act for $19bn for damages to the environment, wildlife and marine life caused by their oil disaster. The CBD states that ‘approximately 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the disaster’ [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
|11) Cherri Foytlin, activist and co-founder of Gulf Change, speaking on the steps of the state capital in Baton Rouge about the health problems that have emerged from exposure to BP’s oil and dispersants, and the economic devastation from the failing fishing industry [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]|
Read more from Al Jazeera about the lawsuits filed against BP.
Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail