Throughout the course of the BP Gulf oil spill, the worst man-made environmental disaster in our country’s history, our nation’s focus and attention have rightly been focused on the immediate: containing the spill, cleaning up the mess, and securing the lives and livelihoods of the many Gulf coast residents affected. But now, with the emergency past, our Chicago accident lawyers believe that the time has come to turn our attention to the larger picture: preventing such disasters in the future.
To do so, we must first understand and acknowledge that the BP spill, as shocking and dramatic as it was, is hardly an isolated incident. It is instead a part of a larger pattern of neglect and disregard, by BP itself and by other corporations, as well. If we as a nation are truly to move forward and protect ourselves from the destruction of our environment and natural resources, and the catastrophic accidents that result from such destruction, we must confront this pattern of malfeasance and force these giants of industry to pay for their neglect and to behave responsibly in the future.
The pattern of misconduct is perhaps easiest to see by comparing the BP spill to the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, which occurred in the late 1980s. In both, intentional wrongdoing was not to blame for the disaster. Basic, commonsense precautions, however, could have prevented each. Had Exxon and its affiliates had procedures in place to ensure that those guiding the Valdez were fit to do so, the wreck would never have occurred. Had BP and its affiliates taken greater precautions, many observers, including the Chicago personal injury attorneys of Passen & Powell, believe that this disaster, too, was preventable. Although they receive less attention, “smaller” oil spills occur with alarming frequency – indeed, a mile-long plume sprouted from a competitor’s site near the BP oil spill two weeks ago, with scant media attention – and most, if not all, such spills could be prevented with simple precautions.
Perhaps even more significantly, the corporate response to these disasters is far from responsible. While BP has presented a bold public face, promising reparations to those whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed, the process to date has been fraught with avoidance and delay. To those who lost jobs, businesses, and worse, compensation years from now is no compensation at all. Yet that is what it appears will occur here – and our Chicago accident lawyers are not surprised.
That is because this is precisely what occurred in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Exxon, like BP, played a game of delay, squabbling, and finger pointing, leaving the injured uncompensated for literally decades. Once the emergency was past, once the disaster was no longer glamorous, once the media had turned the nation’s attention in another direction, Exxon took advantage of that national distraction, knowing that with time and lack of attention, national anger would dissipate. And, sadly, it did, allowing the injustice of delay to occur.
Nor is this pattern unique to oil spills. BP itself demonstrates that through its behavior regarding the Anaconda Copper Mine in Yerington, Nevada. The Yerington Copper Mine has been known to be leaching hazardous waste and materials into the surrounding soil for years, yet BP and its co-owners have failed to take action. Instead, they have practiced their pattern of delay, safe from the glare of media attention. Without a national focus and outcry, BP and its partners happily continue polluting, while the chemical spill expands, making true cleanup an ever greater impossibility and moving slowly but surely closer to groundwater and habitation.
We as a nation simply cannot allow this to continue. The federal and state agencies responsible for supervising and punishing these environmental polluters must take action, and to do so, they must be properly funded and staffed. But more importantly, the American public cannot afford to lose focus. If we as consumers and citizens refuse to have our attention diverted, these corporations will not be able to continue in this pattern of negligence. If the victims of that negligence speak up, fight back, and take legal action, these corporations may, in time, learn that it is wiser to behave responsibly in the first place.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.