Billion Dollar Divorce for Oklahoma Oil Man

Money-Savings

Next time, don’t forget the prenup!

Harold Hamm, named by Forbes as the 24th richest man in the world, is set to pay one of the biggest divorce settlements in history to former wife Sue Hamm. Mr. Hamm owns the largest piece of the nations most oil-rich land in North Dakota. “Mr. Hamm, who has described himself as “more hardheaded than other people,” did not have a particular document that is all but standard now whenever tycoons wed: a prenuptial agreement”. After the 9-week trial, Sue Hamm will now be amongst the richest women in the country. Mr. Hamm is required to pay his ex-wife one-third of the total settlement ($320 million) by the end of this year. Read More

Hurricane Washes Up Same Old Problems

Bourbon Street Dream by flickr user kcdsTM, licensed by Creative Commons

Hurricane Isaac’s recent landfall along the Gulf Coast has caused a lot more issues than originally thought.  A collection of businesses in New Orleans and other Gulf cities are contesting that Isaac has washed up oil and tar from the BP oil spill in 2010.  The British oil and gas company has already agreed to pay about $7.8 billion to the plaintiffs effected.  Economic losses, property damages, and personal injuries were all cited in these settlements; however lawyers believe that Hurricane Isaac has shown that there is still work to be done. Read more

Oil Refiners Settle “Hot Fuel” Lawsuit

Oil Refinery in Nova Scotia, from Flickr user Iguanasan, licensed via Creative Commons“Hot Fuel” sounds like the title of an awesome action movie.  I’m thinking Speed meets Under Siege, set on an oil tanker.  I’m kind of upset that the phrase is wasted on a much more boring concept.  Nevertheless, oil refineries recently heard “hot fuel” as often as they’ll ever want to after getting bitchslapped in the courtroom by science.  They’ll have to pony up $21.6 million total to resolve claims in this hot fuel suit, with the money to be divided between the 50 retailers across the country who brought charges against them.  So what is this “hot fuel” garbage, anyway?

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Memphis to Clean Itself Up

In what might be the government equivalent to a friendly “take a shower, bro” at the gym, the city of Memphis, Tennessee has agreed to spend $250 million over a decade to fix and update its sewer system as part of a settlement.  Apparently, the occasional overflow of untreated sewage was becoming a big problem in Memphis.  Gross.  The federal government, in particular the EPA, undertook litigation to force Memphis to fix these problems.  On Monday, Memphis settled, paying a $1.29 million civil penalty (half of which will go right back to unrelated Memphis-bettering infrastructure projects) and agreeing that raw sewage is disgusting and probably shouldn’t be spewing out willy-nilly from time to time.

As to what extent these $250 million improvements will go is unclear.  At least part of it will be to develop a “comprehensive fats, oil, and grease program”, which makes you wonder why there wasn’t one in the first place.  This article shows images of a person actually kayaking through backed-up foamy white sewage sludge byproduct.  In light of that repulsive fact, maybe the best course of action would be to have the TVA come in and toss a dam in there to fix everything up.

 

The Latest BP Oil Spill Settlement

Oil Refinery in Nova Scotia, from Flickr user Iguanasan, licensed via Creative Commons

An oil refinery in Nova Scotia

The big news this weekend was the announcement that BP has settled the set of civil suits by residents and businesses against the company.  The settlement does not have a fixed amount, but BP claims it will likely pay around $7.8 billion.  While that may seem like a big number, this is only the most recent settlement.  In addition to this lawsuit, which covers economic and medical claims, BP has already spent about $22.1 billion on other settlements and, of course, the initial clean up of the spill.  And more is yet to come: the company still faces the US federal government and the individual states affected by the spill in court, potentially seeing criminal charges applied.  Analysts place the total amount in these cases to be anywhere between $17- and $40 billion.  BP itself has set aside $37.5 billion in anticipation of the cases.  There are a few variables in this number, which causes the range to vary so widely.  For one thing, the environmental fines depend on whether or not BP is found to have been grossly negligent, which some see as unlikely in the wake of these latest settlements.  Additionally, if the government levies criminal charges against the company, which it most likely will, the individual fines for that might be $10 billion (the highest amount of criminal fines paid by a corporation so far have only been $2 billion).  For more analysis of the numbers, check out this Wall Street Journal article that gives an excellent rundown.

The ultimate question this whole catastrophe asks is: does money really resolve the environmental problems caused by the company?  Some 5 billion barrels of oil were spilled, possibly because the company ignored safety checks in its rush to pump more oil out of the Earth.  When numbers get that high, humans have an inability to really grasp how huge they are, so use this tool to get a sense of just how much of an impact this spill had on the Gulf.  The city of Chicago and the surrounding area would be drenched in crude if the Magnificent Mile suddenly erupted.  The entirety of South Carolina would need to be cleaned if Columbia opened up and started gushing.  So does $5.4 billion, the lowest in environmental fines BP could pay, really fix anything?  I for one am looking forward to the criminal trial — let’s see if anyone will actually be held accountable for ruining a bit of the Earth.

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