Place BP Under Temporary Receivership

Earlier this week, Robert Reich argued that President Obama and the U.S. government should place BP under temporary receivership. I concur.

When he visited the Gulf Coast last week, the President declared, "I take full responsibility." But only if the government takes the reins away from BP and places it under its own authority can that claim be fulfilled.

From the beginning, BP has fed the public lies, mistruths, and half-truths. Was it 1,000 barrels a day spilling into the Gulf? Or 5,000? Or perhaps 15,000? Is it mustering all of the available global know-how, wisdom, innovation and resources to cap the well? Is BP trying to cap the gushing well with golf balls or tires? Have the guys on the beach in the white suits--clean and white, I should say--been there since day one and are they in for the long haul, or was it a one day photo op while the President was in town?

Left to BP, the public has absolutely no confidence that BP is telling the truth about the oil spill or is doing whatever it takes to cap it. And now that the Attorney General has launched a criminal investigation, it makes all the more sense for the Obama administration to take control over BP and the oil spill clean up operation. President Obama cannot be in charge if BP is still holding the keys.

But make BP foot the bill.

Reich stated, "If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP's north American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history."

Isn't that one of the primary functions of government--to protect the public--yes, the nation--from harm and disaster; to look after the public welfare when the private sector utterly fails to work in the public interest?

And BP, which has one of the worst health and safety records of any oil company--from the Texas City explosion that killed 15 people, to leaks in the Alaska pipeline, to rigging the markets in the Midwest--has shown little concern about the welfare of people and communities. It may have the "equipment and expertise", but it does not have the interest of the people and the surrounding Gulf Coast communities and industries at heart.

Reich's "five reasons for taking action" against BP are worth noting: 

1. We are not getting the truth from BP....(BP chief) Hayward says BP's sampling shows "no evidence" oil is massing and spreading underwater across the Gulf. Yet scientists...say they've detected vast amounts of underwater oil, including an area roughly 50 miles from the spill site and as deep as 400 feet. Government must be clearly in charge of getting all the facts, not waiting for what BP decides to disclose and when. 

2. We have no way to be sure BP is devoting enough resources to stopping the gusher....If government were in direct control of BP's North American assets, it would be able to devote whatever of those assets are necessary to stopping up the well right away.

3. BP's new strategy for stopping the gusher is highly risky.... But scientists say that could result in an even bigger volume of oil--as much as 20 percent more--gushing from the well. At least under government receivership, public officials would be directly accountable for weighing the advantages and disadvantages of such a strategy.

4. Right now, the U.S. government has no authority to force BP to adopt a different strategy....The President needs legal authority to order BP to protect the United States. 

5. The President is not legally in charge. As long as BP is not under the direct control of the government he has no direct line of authority, and responsibility is totally confused.

(Robert Reich)

Yes, the BP oil spill is the environmental equivalent of a nuclear meltdown; the nation's security is at risk. It's a state of emergency that cannot be left to a private corporation like BP to deal with. BP has betrayed the public interest and demonstrated the worst behavior with the worst impact one could imagine. Management of this crisis must be under the authority of the President and our government who are charged with protecting the nation.

And yes, BP must foot the bill. That's easy enough for a corporation that averages over $20 billion in annual profits from oil. It must pay for the immediate capping of the well and clean up of the Gulf Coast. It must pay for the long-term restoration of the region. It must pay for the damage and devastation it has caused to the lives and livelihood of families and businesses; to the birds and fish; to the marshes and beach--all of which surely will exceed the $75 million liability cap under federal law.

It's time to go beyond BP!