Industrial and Environmental Disaster Victims Compensation

June 17, 2010

By Padmini Arhant

There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the victims of the worst industrial and environmental disaster.

The energy company, BP’s agreement to compensate monetarily with $20 billion over three-year period for the Gulf Coast oil spill impact is a fair beginning.

It’s been set up without a cap and to be monitored by an independent administrator previously appointed to oversee the 9/11 families’ relief fund.

In fact, the urgency lies with the company’s daunting task to stop the gushing oil completely, otherwise ‘plug the hole.’

President Barack Obama’s initiative deserves credit for it enabled BP’s decision.

Now, it’s imperative not to proceed in the direction that has inherent risks with unsustainable loss of life and income to the communities along the coastal regions.

Abandoning offshore drilling in deep and shallow water is the ideal solution to prevent economic and environmental costs.

Some permanent damages to wild and marine life are incomparable for they exceed any likely benefits from oil exploration to attain energy independence, especially when there are absolute clean energy options available through solar, wind, hydropower, bio-fuel etc.

Similarly, the Bhopal victims’ plea for justice in the historic industrial negligence causing several thousand casualties and wreaking havoc in the surroundings with terminal illnesses, birth defects… making life impossible for the impoverished survivors exposed the long buried truth suspected in the failure to implicate the parent company, Union Carbide USA and its then CEO Mr. Warren Anderson.

As stated in the earlier blog post titled “Worst Industrial Catastrophe – Union Carbide / Dow Chemicals and Bhopal Victims of India,” published on June 12, 2010,

The deal between the parent company Union Carbide USA and the Indian government at the federal and state representation confirms the immunity granted to Union Carbide USA including the assurance to the then CEO’s safe departure prior to his arrival in India.

According to the latest reports, the US Envoy to India in 1984, Mr. Gordon Streeb, has come forward and disclosed the details in the agreement between the parent company Union Carbide USA and the Indian government at that time.

The international and Indian journalists, the primary witnesses at the site, corroborated the events leading to the unresolved dispute.

Further, the ex-CEO Mr. Warren Anderson concurred with the key elements in the Bhopal accident settlement during his recent interview.

Per the emerging reports, “the previous Indian government in a sweeping effort to westernize the status quo and transform the ‘socialist,’ economy to ‘capitalism,’ adopted appeasement strategies to lure foreign investments.

In that context, the Bhopal tragedy was an impediment to the measures due to the multinational corporation’s conspicuous mismanagement of the chemical plant.

Subsequently, the transaction materialized at the highest political and corporate level in the backdrop of the greatest industrial calamity.

Again, obstruction of justice through politics and prejudice is not territorial.

It’s an epidemic that has evolved into an unpleasant fact for the innocent deprived of free and fair judicial process.

Nevertheless, the incumbent Indian administration led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seemingly responding with the following appropriate actions:

A new institution called the “EGom,” – Empowered Group of Ministers have been designated with the responsibilities to address the Bhopal victims’ humanitarian needs by imposing a deadline i.e. June 24, 2010 to expedite the much awaited disaster aid.

Source: Indian News Media and the Indian Government Official Data.

Bhopal EGom”s Tall Order:

Work out enhanced compensation package for the survivors of the Bhopal gas explosion.

Provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims.

Determine ways to decontaminate the site not precluding soil and ground water testing to ensure safe living conditions.

Rigorous regulations on industrial mishaps with liabilities directly transferred to the corporations in violation.

Last but not the least, the Government contemplating Mr. Warren Anderson’s extradition request.

The diligence demonstrated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress Party Leader Sonia Gandhi is praiseworthy.

However, the challenge remains in implementing the executive order with none or minimal bureaucracy that often delays the anticipated results.

The victims have endured enormous suffering and any procrastination would exacerbate their plight.

Notwithstanding the government obligations since they are the fund recipient in the Bhopal dispute.

Regarding Mr. Warren Anderson’s extradition – considering the individual’s frail health and age (90+ years), a televised formal apology to the Bhopal victims would be morally and ethically sound, rather than subjecting the elderly defendant to legal proceedings.

Although, the affected citizens’ pain and agony over these years has been excruciating, their forgiveness of those incarcerated in the horrific incident could heal the ordeal experienced by them.

For human spirit is enriched through compassion.

It’s a long journey for the disaster victims in the east and the west, but there is hope with the leaderships on both sides striving hard to end the misery.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

Environmental Disaster – Gulf Coast Oil Spill

June 7, 2010

By Padmini Arhant

Ever since the explosion at the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that initially claimed 11 lives, the avalanche of unmitigated losses has become the reality.

It is evident in the oil dripping Pelicans, dolphins and lifeless birds alongside the economically devastated fishermen, tourist industry and restaurateurs.

Approximately 1.6 million gallons of oil reportedly gushed from the spill that is yet to be completely contained.

Meanwhile, it has evolved into the economic and environmental disaster for the entire Gulf Coast threatening the inhabitants in the adjacent regions with oil plumes traced as farther in Florida.

Further, the BP oil company liable for the calamity has maintained that it could take until August 2010 to stop the leak in the face of extensive damages to the states near the Gulf Coast.

During the congressional hearing on the major environmental catastrophe, it was clear the BP executives including the federal regulators responsible for monitoring the risks failed in their assessment of the pervasive repercussions from the oceanic accident prior to issuing permits.

Like any other hearing, the company CEOs’ concern for the shareholders interest superseded national interest when they evaded the obvious questions leading to the cause and aftermath of the accident.

The disappointments following the oil spill is the BP’s unsuccessful action to block the leak and more disturbing is the legislators, especially Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski and others rejecting the Democrat Senator Bill Nelson’s bill to increase the cap for oil spill damages to $10 billion from $75 million,

Thereby, eliminating the possibility to hold BP accountable in the greatest man-made environmental destruction.

As it turns out, according to the NYT June 5, 2010 report – titled ‘Gulf Oil Spill’:

“The letter co-signed by Janet Napolitano, the director homeland security, said that federal agencies had already spent $93 million on the spill response, which BP is yet to reimburse.”

When the industry representatives in Congress are in the forefront protecting them from financial liabilities and diligently transferring the burden on the taxpayers,

Besides allowing the federal agency to issue more permits for offshore drilling continuation,

The combined power in Washington and Wall Street determination to ruin the habitat with unsustainable policies is conspicuous.

Not to mention their decisions adding insult to injury endured by ordinary citizens across the coastal region having a ripple effect overall.

The reason to proceed with shallow water or deep water offshore drilling is provided as the necessity to meet the enormous energy requirement in the United States.

With energy and environment directly linked to consumption and conservation, the pursuit of clean energy from natural sources – solar, wind, hydropower and bio-fuel comprise the absolute safe energy solution against the increasingly risky and hazardous resources viz. coal, oil and nuclear energy.

Now the argument is immediate availability of the latter and the projected longer duration to harness the former.

Even though the solar, wind, hydrothermal as well as bio-fuel technology is currently in use, the U.S. investment in these abundant sources is replaced by the energy industry preferred limited resources i.e. oil, coal and nuclear power.

The simple explanation for the less importance to plentiful alternatives over scarce energy resources – which has led to perpetual wars, nuclear proliferation and consequently standoff is profit driven strategy set by the OPEC, ONGC, Coal and Nuclear industry.

Anything that is freely accessible to a large extent with a higher possibility to trade within national and international territories i.e. solar, wind and hydrothermal projects are secondary choices due to the broadening energy supply capabilities inducing competition to the energy monopolies in the industry.

The recent mining accident in Virginia, oil spill in the Gulf Coast, civilian nuclear program used as a pretext for nuclear weapons –

The latest being Myanmar, the military junta is apparently involved in uranium enrichment for a nuclear warhead,

All of it underscore the urgency to adopt energy programs that are environmentally conducive.

In terms of curbing the extraordinary energy demand, the society consuming less and leaning towards environmentally healthy lifestyle is the viable remedy to the burgeoning energy shortage.

For example, California’s recent announcement to ban plastic bags throughout the state and,

Previously guiding the nation on stringent carbon emission standards through EPA regulation to avoid legislative rigmarole are the positive steps to energy saving and life enhancement on earth.

Concentrating on the green technology development to boost green jobs is a favorable short and long term economic and environment goals.

Again, divestment from the conventional minerals to natural elements is the ideal alternative to energy independence.

Unless vigorous investments are made in the solar, wind, hydrothermal, biodiesel etc.,

The world will never be ready to migrate from the life endangering fossil fuel and nuclear energy to the truly green energy production.

Planet sustenance is dependent upon the ecosystem optimized preservation that is violated through prevalent drilling and mining for oil, coal and uranium.

The limitless human wants and desires have contributed to the status quo –

A dire economy, prolonged wars, cataclysmic changes to the environment in the form of extreme drought, flood, tornadoes, hurricane and tsunamis…beyond human control.

It is made worse by the lack of recognition to rein in on the profit oriented energy opportunities depleting the earth’s resources with no regard for the present or the future.

If the energy industry giants conscientiously engage in the energy derivation from sun, wind, water and bio-fuel the demand and the affordability factor can be effectively addressed, particularly with the hydrosphere phenomena –

Oceans covering the two-thirds of the earth’s surface supplemented by sunshine and windy conditions in the equatorial zones.

Instead, polluting and contaminating the natural habitat through risky mechanisms is opted regardless of the carnage from it.

Notwithstanding, the democratic powers political appeasement of the “Petro-dictatorial” regimes merely to replenish the ever growing contemporaneous energy needs.

There are several ways to relieve the society from the energy deficiency.

Reducing the usage and maximizing the above outlined potentials is the origin to end the energy and environment crisis.

Manufacturing and distribution of eco-friendly products and services is an emerging trend but not popularized in practice.

The existing problems related to the economy, energy, environment and political issues are attributed to excess greed, self-interest and dominance ultimately affecting all.

Unfortunately, the political and economic powers resist the environmental dangers in the Gulf coast oil spill and a range of energy industry mishaps for they refuse to steer away from the traditional means irrespective of the tragic outcome.

Expecting different results from the same methods fits the fantasy than the fact.

The position on the ‘presumed’ job losses from these sectors as the justification to resume offshore drilling in spite of massive environmental harm does not bode well for it ignores the similar, if not severe economic experience by the local industries and residents affected in the oil soaked areas.

Moreover, the energy industry is being requested to retain the workforce and not abandon them by diverting to solar, wind, hydrothermal and bio-fuel sources that aptly qualify as –

“Clean energy substitutes.”

Collective reaction rather than actions is witnessed in the Gulf oil spill with BP not demonstrating the ability to terminate the leak altogether into the seventh week of the horrific incident, rendering the numerous livelihood and lives dispensable.

Monetary compensation to the victims and the states impacted by BP’s negligence is the least the oil company could offer in this instance.

Marine life has been significantly impaired creating an ecological imbalance reflective in the deteriorating food pyramid.

Offshore drilling moratorium is negated by simultaneous shallow water drilling permits despite no guarantee in the so-called ‘risk free’ process.

Conflicting preparations are detrimental to the planet, the natural habitat for all species.

Energy challenges in the modern era are best dealt with natural and holistic approach.

Gulf Coast oil spill is just the tip of the iceberg in the energy exploration.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant