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Don’t let BP off the hook

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By John Barnhart

    BP’s cap on its Gulf of Mexico gusher has held for a month now, although drilling a relief well has experienced some delays. BP claims that all the spilled oil is gone from the Gulf, consumed by natural oil-eating bacteria. The Obama administration is making the same claim.

    It’s still a bit premature for President Barack Obama and BP CEO Robert Dudley to land, in a helicopter, on the deck of one of the ships at the well’s site to be welcomed by a “Mission Accomplished” banner. I imagine that BP would love to get this all wrapped up and concentrate on how to wiggle off the liability hook. President Obama, who has been the recipient of BP campaign cash in the past, seems willing to let the company off the hook, in spite of his tough guy rhetoric while the well was still gushing.
    A Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution study done in June found an oil plume that was 21 miles long, more than a mile wide and 600 feet thick flowing underwater at a depth of a little over 3,000 feet. Before BP and BO declare victory, somebody needs to make sure we know whether this oil is still there and, if not, where it went. The study needs to be more in depth than just having BP’s CEO and President Obama go out on a boat and look around.
    “Hey Barack, I don’t see any oil. Do you see any oil?”
    “No, Bob, I don’t see any at all.”
    Along with the need to account for this underwater oil plume, on-going studies need to be done to determine what the long term effects of this oil spill are. Nobody really knows, and it will take scientific studies done over an extended period of time to determine this. BP, not the American taxpayer, should foot the bill for that.
    We do know that oil washed up on beaches and into marshes. We need to make sure that BP isn’t able to weasel out of cleaning up the mess it made before the clean-up is complete.
    Then, there’s the economic damage. Many shrimpers were able to earn an income, while they couldn’t fish for shrimp, by hiring their boats out for clean-up work. Many of those affected, like businesses that cater to tourists, had less opportunity. The beaches appear to be clean now, but it may take a while to get the tourists back. On top of that, Gulf Coast tourist businesses missed most of their tourist season this year.
    The shrimpers are back catching shrimp, and the crabbers are catching crabs, but the Gulf Coast seafood industry may have some PR work cut out for it to convince people that seafood caught there is safe. Then, there’s next year. Nobody knows yet if there will be a long-term impact on shrimp, crabs, oysters and fish populations.
    There is also evidence suggesting that BP cut corners on the well design to save money. A vigorous investigation should continue to determine if BP was negligent, and if that proves to be the case, then BP should be vigorously fined.
    One last word: If you, like me, are angry at BP, do not even think about directing your ire at gas stations that sell gasoline with the BP label. The ones in this area are independently owned, so don’t let your feelings about the Gulf oil spill influence what gas stations you patronize. One station selling BP branded gasoline, for example, is located on U. S. 460 just west of Bedford and owned by a local family. They are nice people and had nothing to do with what a big corporation did in the Gulf. I frequently gas up there if I’m on my way out of town, in that direction, and need gas. I still do it even though I’m livid at BP for the mess it made..