Environmental fraud has obvious implications for the ecosystems it affects, but it can also have far-reaching consequences for residents, shareholders and the country as a whole.
Off-shore drilling presents significant environmental risks, so the companies that profit from this practice are bound to certain standards of transparency, caution and preparedness.
When they fail to adhere to those standards, the consequences can be devastating and, in many cases, long-lasting.
When BP lied about its safety measures
The 2010 British Petroleum (BP) oilrig explosion and subsequent spill was the worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history. As the litigation following the spill demonstrated, it was also a preventable disaster.
The company eventually pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter for the lives lost during the blowout, paid tens of billions of dollars in fines, and was charged for lying to Congress about the conditions leading up to the explosions.
BP’s punishments were more than fair. After all, the impact of the oil spill on the local ecosystem persists today, and its effects on the Gulf regions’ economy were severe.
Awareness of corporate environmental accountability may have increased since 2010, but how much have environmental protections actually improved in recent years?
Oil industry misconduct since the BP blowout
After the BP disaster, the government pledged to push through environmental reform to ensure that there wouldn’t be any similar man-made catastrophes going forward.
BP was held financially accountable and barred from being granted new federal contracts for several years, and legislation was introduced to improve the safety measures that had been lacking ahead of the disaster.
Even with those steps, however, not enough has been done to ensure that oil companies are approaching drilling opportunities with sufficient caution.
In April 2015, the Gulf of Mexico held court to yet another oilrig explosion. A spill was fortunately averted, but the incident highlighted the vulnerability of the local ecosystem, which was so horribly ravaged in 2010.
Not all oil-related disasters have been averted since then, however.
In July 2010, a ruptured pipeline caused an approximately 20 million gallon spill into China’s Yellow Sea.
In March 2014, BP spilled over 1600 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan because of a malfunction at one of their distillation units. Although BP officials and the EPA denied any long-term risks from the spill, local politicians and advocacy groups remained concerned.
In May 2016, Royal Dutch Shell reportedly spilled 88,200 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The investigation of this spill is ongoing and the cause is unknown, however the incident demonstrates that the region’s environmental troubles are far from over.
Will environmental reform ever make the impact it should?
After the 2010 disaster, BP got its comeuppance to an extent—but the fact that the company and its competitors have committed subsequent infractions should raise major alarms among the government and the American public.
Even after the 2010 spill, BP repeatedly denied its environmental impact, saying that the Gulf Coast region is “resilient.”
BP’s cavalier attitude towards its environmental impact is disrespectful, to say the least, to all that have been affected by its failures.
Other oil companies should take note, likewise, that creating safe and sustainable drilling systems is not just a choice. It’s a requirement and a responsibility.