The BBC yesterday reported that a US court has approved the biggest criminal penalties in US history and ordered UK oil company BP to pay $4bn (R36.2bn) to the US Department of Justice.
As part of the deal the company also agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster which killed 11 workers and released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Two BP workers have been indicted on manslaughter charges and an ex-manager charged with misleading Congress.
At the hearing BP issued a grovelling apology to all those effected. Luke Keller, a Vice President of BP America, told the court, “We – and by that I mean the men and the women of the management of BP, its board of directors, and its many employees – are deeply sorry for the tragic loss of the 11 men who died and the others who were injured that day, Our guilty plea makes clear, BP understands and acknowledges its role in that tragedy, and we apologise”
Other companies involved included Transocean, the owner of the rig and responsible for the safety valve known as the blowout preventer, and Halliburton, who provided cementing services. The BBC reports that BP is yet to reach a settlement with these firms. A civil trial that will determine negligence is due to begin in New Orleans in February.
On Friday, 25 January, twenty-five activists shut down the Shell petrol station in Davos, some of whom were chained to the pumps.
The place was surrounded by police, but also by journalists who ducked out of the Davos meeting to hear their message about the dangers of drilling for Arctic oil. Greenpeace came to Davos because Shell is there too.
Shell chief executive Peter Voser signed a $10 billion deal here to exploit oil shale in Ukraine, but he’ll also be trying to reassure investors that the company’s huge investment in the Arctic is still a good bet, despite the huge problems Shell is having up there. So the hardy activists are bringing a different message to those same investors. It was minus 15 degrees Celsius here (you might even call them Arctic conditions), but they shut the station for several hours. And every minute they stayed there increased their penetration into the meeting of politicians and business leaders at the World Economic Forum that was happening a few minutes up the road.
Shell was on Thursday given the Public Eye Award for the world’s most unsustainable corporation.
“Wherever there’s a great concentration of power it’s vital that the voices of ordinary people are also heard. We hope the voices of these volunteers are loud enough to reach the ears of the assembled power brokers in Davos. We’re telling them that the retreat of the Arctic sea ice – an effect of the global warming caused by burning fossil fuels – must not be exploited by oil companies to send their rigs into the newly opened waters. We have to heed this grave warning from nature, but Shell looks at the melting ice and wants to use it to drill for the fuels that caused the melting in the first place. I think of this as I watch the snow gently falling on the heads of the brave activists before they voluntarily end the action – having ensured the Davos meeting was so loudly interrupted by the call for Arctic protection.”