Has BP paid its dues to begin drilling in Gulf of Mexico again?

A photo showing the containment process of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
A photo showing the containment process of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

On March 11, a federal judge rejected British Petroleum’s attempt to stop certain payments of its $9.2 billion settlement for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that was estimated to have affected up to 68,000 square miles of water.

BP said some of the settlements owed were attached to fraud despite losing its case.

Though BP was not able to win its settlement appeal, they were able to get back to potentially making 1.3 million pounds in profits per hour.

In business terms, the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed that BP has paid its monetary dues (so far, BP has paid about one third of its total in the settlement) as they are now allowed to compete for new oil leases in the gulf.

However, when it comes to the impact BP’s oil spill had on the gulf  region, it’s difficult to say with confidence that BP has done all that it can socially — that is, cleaning the physical oil that still plagues the area.

According to the New York Times, BP’s newly found freedom doesn’t come without stipulations. British Petroleum will be under scrutiny from the government agency. They will still have to meet certain standards which include, “ethics,” “safety procedures” and “risk assessments.”

Similarly, an independent auditor, assigned by the EPA, will complete annual checks on British Petroleum to make sure the company is complying with new standards.

Raleigh Hoke, a spokesperson for the Gulf Restoration Network told the Times, “They (BP) still haven’t really made it right when it comes to the gulf.” Oil still washes onto the shores in New Orleans when major storms occur like Tropical Storm Karen.

With oil still landing on shores and the use of controversial cleanup methods like booms, oil dispersants (which don’t remove the oil, but only break it up) and manual labor including shoveling sand and wiping shores with fabrics meant to extract oil from the already tarnished shores, the region is far from a full recovery.

Al Jazeera English did a in-depth report of the affected area some three years after the incident and found that some fisherman off the Florida coast have had to pack up their businesses, selling cheap. Similarly, the sea life in the impact zone are deformed and ridden with tumors.

Recently, a study published in the Science magazine concluded that the tuna have developed irregular heartbeats due to the crude spilled.

It may take years (even decades) for us to fully understand the scope of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 workers. Without a full assessment and with oil still washing onto shores, is it really fair to allow BP to drill again?

BP is paying for its actions (or lack thereof) monetarily, but are they doing so socially and morally?

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