This article was first published by the Media Consortium.
President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders spent this week trying to stand up to the oil industry. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama pushed BP to siphon $20 billion into an escrow fund that will cover liability claims, and Congress grilled BP CEO Tony Hayward and other oil bigwigs as to how they were protecting the country’s coastal waters.
While these developments are promising, mopping up the current crisis and guarding against future incidents will take more momentum than a speech, a meeting or a few hearings can deliver.
BP’s escrow fund indicates that the company is willing to take some responsibility for the damage this spill has visited on the Gulf Coast. But not everyone in Washington is pleased with the fund. As TPMDC’s Eric Kleefeld writes, “some Republicans have come out strongly against it—with the sum total of charges being that it will turn into a political slush fund procured through dirty Chicago thug tactics that will be paid out to ACORN.”
Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) became the poster boy for this sentiment when, at a Thursday hearing, he apologized to BP for the president’s actions. TPM sheds some light on the Congressman’s possible motivation. It seems Barton might have his own interests at heart, not the needs of the spill’s victims (or of the Republican Party—by the end of the day, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) forced Barton to retract his apology).
“Barton’s number one career campaign contributor, Anadarko Petroleum, has 25% ownership in the well where the April 20 rig explosion occurred,” Justin Elliott writes. “The firm, which has given Barton $146,500 over the years, has been sent a bill by BP for cleanup costs.”
As far as the clean-up efforts, Mother Jones’s Mac McClelland reports that the company is not doing all it can for Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge. McClelland talked to one clean up worker who said:
“They’re up to 120 guys on Elmer’s now, but I can’t see any considerable difference. They’re only working five sites and it’s eight miles of beach. No one seems concerned about cleaning it up. The contractors are getting their money; they don’t care. They’ve got all these people out there, but they’re not accomplishing anything.”
So far it doesn’t seem like BP—or the oil industry—is learning from these failures, either. Also at Mother Jones, Kate Sheppard reports that as bad as BP’s clean up response has been, at this week’s hearing, the public “got a glimpse of how ridiculous it was on paper.” The clean up plan, Sheppard writes, referenced a deceased sea turtle expert and ways to protect walruses and sea lions, which do not live in the Gulf Coast.