Wildfires may cause debilitating effects on the environmental landscape. Despite the deadly risks of playing with fire, homes may be burned to the ground, wildlife may lose its habitat, pollution may permeate clean air, and carbon dioxide may be released into the earth’s atmosphere. Given the negative consequences of large fires, the United States has routinely investigated the source of wildfires and has held certain individuals responsible for starting them. In this most recent wildfire settlement, a Mariposa County, California resident agreed to pay $950,000 to compensate for his part in initiating a 2016 blaze, known as the “Old Fire.” Read moreGoogle+
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s key goal is to preserve the land of the arctic refuge. Led by Ferguson, a federal lawsuit has been filed in the hopes of stopping the progression of plans to drill for oil and gas in this northeastern region of Alaska. For anyone who has watched the television show, The Last Alaskans, it is easy to see and appreciate the desolate landscape of snow, trees, and wildlife. Inhabited by seven or eight families, the current residents of the refuge may maintain cabin permits up until the death of their last-born child. Read moreGoogle+
Wolverines may soon join the list of extinct species, next to the passenger pigeon, the golden toad, and the Caspian tiger. Despite efforts to push for a wolverine listing under the Endangered Species Act, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has not made any substantial moves. In response to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s less than proactive approach in working to preserve the wolverine population, nine conservation groups have banded together in filing a lawsuit. Filed on March 18, the conservation groups are hoping for a judge to institute a firm deadline by which the US Fish and Wildlife Service must make their decision in listing the animal as endangered. Read moreGoogle+
Flint, MI has gained national, negative recognition as the lead poisoned town with a contaminated water supply. A poor decision was made in 2014, to gather untreated river water as a source of the town’s potable water. This would serve as a temporary solution while a new pipeline to Lake Huron was constructed. The untreated river caused astronomically high levels of lead in Flint’s residents. Read MoreGoogle+
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.
- See what the oil spill would look like on your hometown
- Google.org’s data collection
- More news articles on the settlement