President Obama has vowed the British Petroleum will be responsible for the clean up of the oil spill in the Gulf that continues to dominate headlines.
M0st folks are concerned with marine life like crab and oysters and other species which will obviously be affected by this disaster – and rightly so. But the one potential casuality of this disaster that has escaped everyone, is what it could do to families in the Gulf Coast who have already been ravaged by Katrina and other natural disasters. The human species and the social costs of the fallout could also be astronomical and collecting a dime of settlement money from British Petroleum will likely take years. So in the meantime, how will these social costs be paid? What will happen to these families? No one is talking about that.
If you think this is far fetched, look at what happened in Alaska a couple of decades back with the Exxon Valdez spill. First of all, Alaskans living on the coastal towns are still affected today. The Associated Press:
Crude oil from the tanker still lingers on some beaches a full 21 years later. Some marine species never recovered. Families and bank accounts were shattered. Alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence rates all rose in hard-hit towns.” As far as what’s ahead, we have a feeling that we kind of know what those communities and individuals are going to go through, and it’s absolutely tragic,” said Stan Jones, spokesman for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council.
Can you imagine that twenty-one years later that spill is still resonating with the communities that where hit? These folks suffered tremendous social consequences such as joblessness, alcoholism, and higher rates of divorce and these problems still reverberate in these communities. The Associated Press:
Jones’ group commissioned studies to see how the spill affected people in small communities where fishing gives people their identity. Cordova [Alaska] was probably the most painful example because its fishing industry was hurt so much by the spill. “The community exhibited every kind of social stress you can imagine,” Jones said. “Alcoholism went up. Suicide went up. Family violence went up. Divorces went up. Of course, bankruptcies and various kinds of financial failures went up with the attendant stress on families.”
What is most disturbing to learn about the Exxon Valdez spill, is that the company was able, through rigorous appeals, get the Supreme Court to reduce the settlement to these folks many years later after they had suffered for so long. “Those who lived through the Valdez catastrophe said they felt enormous sorrow for the Gulf Coast because they know how painful it will all be, especially once the prolonged legal battles begin over compensation. The Valdez dispute was agonizingly slow and marked by several frustrating appeals.” AP
Time will tell how British Petroleum will respond to this mess and what the state of Gulf Coast families will be. But there are already concerns that British Petroleum does not have the money to afford making good on this. They just don’t have the capital. The WSJ:
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal expressed “concerns that BP’s current resources are not adequate” to stop the leak, protect the coast and clean up the mess. The British oil giant also faces fierce criticism on Capitol Hill and a slew of investigations by federal agencies.