BP Has So Much Money to Lose. But Who Should Manage It?

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. – Jeff Phillips, Environmental Contaminants Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, rescues a Brown Pelican from the Barataria Bay in Grand Isle, La., June 4, 2010. State and federal wildlife services pulled approximately 60 Brown Pelicans, in the last two days, covered in oil from the Barataria Bay area. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ann Marie Gorden. Who do we trust when an exploitative company that makes more money than god claims to be fixing its mess, but is the king of an industry that has colluded with the government for years?

This seems to be one of the broadest and most frustrating takeaways of the crisis resulting from the ongoing Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill.

Under current law (Oil Pollution Act of 1990), a leaseholder for a deepwater port is liable for no more than $75 million per spill plus removal costs. Transocean, owner of the sunken drill ship, is liable for up to $350 million under the same law.

BP reported more than $6 BILLION in PROFIT for the first quarter 2010. That’s $60 million each day. Revenues from 2009 sales totaled $239 BILLION (about the same as Finland’s GDP). BP must pay.

But Obama and the government have only teased the idea of lifting the $75 million cap, much less seizing BP’s assets entirely.

BP claims to have already spent $1 billion on cleanup costs and small bundles of cash to the affected states. but BP itself estimates the total costs to be $6 billion. Then there are the mounting health concerns for humans and animals encountering the dispersants being used, as well as liability for obliterating the sea-based industries of the Gulf. Not to mention lawsuits already filed by the survivors and surviving families of the April 20 blast that led to the gusher. Credit Suisse recently estimated those costs at an additional $14 billion.

These numbers don’t mean very much. What matters is that some organization, public or private, must be left responsible for managing recovery funds. One that is independent of both BP and the U.S. Government. But who?

UPDATE: David Axelrod appeared on Meet the Press this morning and hinted at Obama leaning toward a fund managed by a third party. Another empty signal or the start of something? – Obama will demand BP establish escrow account to handle oil spill claims. Obama may ask for as much as $50 billion to start the fund when he addresses the nation Wednesday. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Photo via Deepwater Horizon Response‘s flickr (taken June 4, 2010, Jefferson Pa., Louisiana).

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