British Petroleum, the British cyclopean oil corporation that held its eye open for nothing but cash and oil, pleaded guilty on Nov. 15 to 14 felony counts tied to the 2010 explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at its Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
The plea includes 11 manslaughter charges for the deaths of on-site rig workers. Another indictment charges BP’s former executive David Rainey with the obstruction of justice by false claims made to Congress about the magnitude of oil spilled.
The company will pay $4.5 billion to settle the charges, which embodies the largest corporate criminal penalty in U.S. history. The settlement includes close to $1.3 billion in fines.
Individual BP workers were faced with separate felonies related to the giant spill, as announced by the Justice Department. BP drilling managers who were to be overseeing the operation, Robert Kaluza and Donald Virdine, were charged with 22 counts of manslaughter for negligent practices that resulted in the deaths of 11 rig workers.
Attorneys for Kaluza and Virdine as well as former executive Rainey are going to fight the charges. Rainey’s attorneys, Reid H. Weingarten and Brian M. Herberlig accused the Justice Department of trying to “turn a tragic accident and its tumultuous aftermath into criminal activity.” This is peculiar, considering the extreme exploitation of the earth necessary to simply strike oil hidden deep beneath the earth’s crust. It is ignorant to claim this situation as an accident, considering the environmental impact the excessive and intentional combustion of fossil fuel has on our planet’s atmosphere.
Virdine’s attorney, 65-year-old Bob Habans, claimed the prosecutors showed “exceedingly poor judgment” through their charges against his client. He claims Virdine to be a “hard working and diligent man” who any “fair-minded person” would not blame for such a catastrophic occurrence.
Similarly, Kaluza’s attorneys, Shain Clarke and David Gerger, attempt to justify the situation by describing the morale of their client as wholesome, and mentioning that he “mourns his fallen co-workers every day.” They say in a statement, “After nearly three years and tens of millions of dollars in investigation, the government needs a scapegoat… an innocent man.”
The controversy here lies within the personal responsibility that corporations can usually ignore. Corporations are inhuman as well as inhumane, which is why the defense of these workers is through descriptions of their personality rather than business intention.
The individual workers who are being charged are the little people, compared to the vast expanse that is the BP oil company.