Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program
Public Citizen applauds U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s long-awaited ruling that BP acted with gross negligence in setting off the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The ruling underscores that BP’s intolerable recklessness was the root cause for an accident that left 11 workers dead and devastated five Gulf Coast communities and that the company should not be trusted to operate in U.S. waters.
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill approaches the coast of Mobile, Ala., May 6, 2010
The finding means that BP will have to pay significantly larger fines to the federal government for causing oil to spew into the Gulf over the course of 87 days in the summer of 2010.
Instead of accepting responsibility, BP has been engaging in drawn-out legal fights. The company has already stated that it will appeal today’s decision and, even worse, is still actively fighting oil spill victims pursuing claims against the corporation under a settlement the company entered into voluntarily. It is time for the corporate criminal to accept responsibility and end the legal fights. It should stop shelling out millions to its defense lawyers, stop challenging the settlement to which the well-lawyered company agreed and start paying appropriately imposed fines.
BP has an abysmal history of negligent disregard for worker safety and the environment. Holding BP truly accountable and deterring this corporation from continuing its reckless course means using all the tools available. Time and again, fines alone have not prevented BP from acting recklessly. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lifted its suspension of BP entities from federal contracts, deeming the corporation once again fit to do business with the government. Today’s gross negligence finding by Judge Barbier should trigger a review of the EPA’s premature decision to reinstate BP as a federal contractor.
Today is a victory for the victims of the BP Gulf disaster, but, by itself, it is insufficient to deter misconduct and compensate the many people injured by the BP disaster.
This week, my colleague Rick Claypool and I finished up our summer webinar series by going over tips and tricks for dropping in on your representative while Congress is home for the month-long recess in August.
August is the perfect time to drop in on a congressional office and get some face time with your representative and his or her staff. Members of Congress hear from Public Citizen’s Congress Watch advocates on Capitol Hill 11 months out of the year, but during the summer they head back to their districts to get an earful from their constituents.
Right now we need your help to urge your representative to co-sponsor these important pieces of public interest legislation: the Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act, the Arbitration Fairness Act, the Shareholder Protection Act and the Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act.
Last week my colleague Rick Claypool and I hosted our second online conversation with Public Citizen activists. Thanks to everyone who tuned in!
Here’s the video in case you weren’t able to make it:
In this installment, Rick and I reviewed four of the Congress Watch division’s key legislative priorities. We outlined the details of the Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act, the Arbitration Fairness Act, the Shareholder Protection Act, and the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. Then we had a discussion of why it’s important for us to push our lawmakers to cosponsor these pieces of legislation, and how Public Citizen activists play a crucial role in achieving our goals during the month-long Congressional recess.
During the month of August, lawmakers make their way back to their home districts. This is the perfect time to swing by your member’s office for a meeting or just drop off some material for him or her to review. During our next webinar, we’ll give folks tips and tricks for dropping in on their member of Congress during the recess. Sign up to let us know you’re interested.
Connecting with lawmakers during the recess is an effective way to let them know what issues matter to the people who live in their districts. Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had this to say about the role of grassroots activists in the passage of Dodd-Frank:
“The role of public opinion [during the passage of Dodd-Frank] was … to give [members] the courage of their convictions, and in particular to enable them to withstand the political pressures being generated by the financial interests that opposed the bill.”
Remember: Even if they’re not hearing from us, they’re definitely hearing from corporate lobbyists and other opponents of the public interest.
In order to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Public Citizen is pushing for a constitutional amendment to limit spending in elections. Already, the fight to get corporate money out of politics has 16 states on its side – almost half the number of states it would take to ratify an amendment.
So far, 111 lawmakers have co-sponsored such an amendment in this legislative session. But, 111 does not come close to the 67-vote supermajority in the Senate and 290-vote supermajority in the House of Representatives necessary to pass one.
So in the next month, Public Citizen’s Democracy is For People campaign is taking the momentum from the states that have backed an amendment and calling or visiting lawmakers who have failed to co-sponsor a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Next week my colleague Rick Claypool and I will be hosting the second in a series of online conversations with Public Citizen’s activists.
Don’t sweat it if you missed the first one, you can get up to speed by watching it below:
In our first conversation we discussed what makes Public Citizen unique, and we detailed the Congress Watch division’s role within the organization and the issues we work on. We also laid out how, through the work of activists like you, we were able to take the STOCK Act from an aspiration to reality.
On Wednesday, July 17 at 8 p.m. Eastern, we plan to take the conversation a step further and fill you in on the pieces of legislation we’re pushing for right now, and how you can help us move the ball forward.