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US government whitewashed economic damage of BP oil spill

(NaturalNews) A group of scientists and experts requested by Congress to assess the total damage caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 have said the government's current methods of putting a price tag on the most sweeping eco-disaster in a generation are inadequate.

Further, the panel of 16 experts said in a report for the National Research Council, the government's bid to provide a full accounting of the accidental spill did not come close to capturing the full extent of environmental and economic losses suffered in coastal fishing regions, marine life and the deep sea.

In their study, the experts called for a major overhaul of the methods the government utilizes to put a price on environmental damage and losses, especially following a disaster on the scale of the BP spill.



Is Uncle Sam lowballing the damage figure? "The full value of losses resulting from the spill cannot be captured ... without consideration of changes in ecosystem services - the benefits delivered to society through natural processes," said the report.



Eleven workers were killed when an explosion rocked the oil rig where the spill occurred. Before the spill was finally capped, the U.S. government estimated more than 4 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf. The spill was the worst offshore spill in U.S. history. Already BP has shelled out more than $25 billion in clean-up costs and efforts to restore damaged Gulf shoreline. The oil giant owes the U.S. government an additional $4.5 billion in fines and is facing billions more in settlement costs, which are growing. Also, BP could be on the hook for billions more that involves claims by the federal government and five Gulf states to restore damage to natural resources.

"Government scientists are now engaged in a closely guarded exercise of trying to get a full accounting of the damage done to the Gulf, and the cost of restoring oiled coastlines and waters, and protecting populations of marine wildlife, such as dolphins, which have suffered die-offs since the disaster," Britain's Guardian newspaper reported.

The experts said they think their findings could still contribute to settlement claims against BP by the federal government and by state governments. However, they also admit that their report will probably do more to influence future efforts to account for environmental damage.

"It digs into one of the great debates arising from the BP disaster: how to put a price on oiled coastlines, and marine animals, and how to hold the company accountable for restoration," Guardian reported.

At the time of the spill, the researchers said about 20 million people in the U.S. lived and worked in and around the Gulf of Mexico. Before the spill, 30 percent of U.S. oil, 20 percent of natural gas and 25 percent of the nation's seafood catch came from the Gulf. Also, wetlands along the coastline protected many regions from storm surges.

Meanwhile, there is a hint of corruption involving the payout fund...

However, the experts said in their report, "Disruptions in the ecosystem caused by the oil spill could impair these services, leading to economic and social impacts that may not be apparent from an assessment of environmental damage alone."

Meanwhile, a federal judge in New Orleans is set to hear arguments regarding a request from BP to freeze all payments from its oil-spill settlement fund so that former FBI Director Louis Freeh can look into claims that fund lawyers may have engaged in wrongdoing, reports said.

"Judge Carl Barbier, who is presiding over a tangle of litigation stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, appointed Mr. Freeh earlier this month to investigate allegations by BP that two lawyers helping to disburse payments from the court-supervised fund were getting kickbacks from law firms filing damage claims," The Wall Street Journal reported.

In the past, Barbier has twice rejected arguments by BP that improper payments were being made from the fund. That led to arguments before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sources:

http://www.guardian.co.uk

http://online.wsj.com
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