With the apparent mixed success of BP's top kill effort to shut down a runaway well head at 5000' the larger question looming for Gulf coast residents, will British Petroleum pay for this mess?
I say they won't.
Since the start of this oily adventure in hydrocarbon mismanagement over 30 days ago, BP has repeated the legal mantra "we will pay for all legitimate claims."
Translated into English, "we will pay for oiled birds and out of work fishermen."
Trying to make the case for sub surface oil plumes and damage caused by micro droplets of oil and COREXIT to oceanic wildlife in the Gulf, against highly paid and skilled BP lawyers, is a fools bet.
Case in point, an oil spill you probably never heard about in the Ecuadorean Oriente. Since the 1970's hundreds of thousands of gallons of thick black oil has ruined vast swaths of the Amazon which to this day has never been cleaned or paid for by Chevron. Their lawyers, faced with direct and unfailing evidence of eco damage, have kept a stiff legal battle going for decades.
One might argue that Chevron has help from corrupt officials in Ecuador and that US officials will make British Petroleum pay. That remains to be seen, currently the cap for oil damages in the Gulf is at $75 million with stiff resistance from Republicans to any changes.
The Great Hurricane Sweep
And now we will begin the 2010 Hurricane season which for all intents will sweep British Petroleum's oil problems under a category 3-4 storm and dissipate the evidence of leaked oil in a nice clean sweep.
Except this oil and over two million gallons of COREXIT will continue to damage wildlife for years and perhaps decades to comes. A fact that is not in dispute, but try making this case against a lawyer who can blame global warming, outside fisheries pressures, and even faulty and conflicting resource data.
With the help of the aptly named chemical dispersant COREXIT, BP has transformed it's ultimate liability of oiled shorelines and wildlife into a sub surface, and legally amorphous wasteland.
In the end, a seemingly prescient British Petroleum will indeed pay for "all legitimate claims."
Patric Douglas CEO