Let’s just say it takes a lot of gall to run an oil company. Take, for example, the settlement BP agreed to in 2012 for poisoning the Gulf Coast and destroying businesses when its Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010. BP is now trying to get out of the settlement. In a Los Angeles Times column over the weekend, called “BP gets slick in trying to undermine gulf oil spill settlement,” columnist Michael Hiltzik wrotes,
Last week BP turned up the heat by sponsoring the daily Playbook web page and email blast aimed at Washington opinion makers, among many other people, by the Politico news website. Each day's Playbook message from BP pinpoints a different, ostensibly absurd case with the tag line, "Would you pay these claims?" Sample: a $173,000 award to an "adult escort service." (What, an escort service can't be harmed by a fall-off in tourism?)
But that's just the PR side of things. The company also has mounted an intensive legal attack on Juneau in federal court in Louisiana. It has obtained a restraining order preventing further payments for the moment and is seeking a permanent injunction so that the policies governing the settlement awards can be recrafted.…
Reports are still emerging of the toxic effects of the spilled oil on the ecosystem; the latest being a just-released finding by Stanford researchers that the crude is bad for the cardiac health of tuna. (BP asserts that the lab study bears no relation to the "real-world conditions" experienced by fish in the gulf.)
Plaintiffs' attorneys say that what's happened is that BP has belatedly awakened to the fact that its obligations to businesses and individuals may come to billions of dollars more than it anticipated. The settlement, indeed, is uncapped — the money keeps getting paid out as long as claims roll in and BP has the cash.
"They figured out that they underestimated what the settlement is going to cost," speculates Stephen J. Herman, a lead plaintiffs' attorney. "Now it's costing them too much money, and they're trying to find ways to not pay it."
So there’s that. But in terms of sheer gall and hypocrisy, can anything top the story, which the Wall Street Journal broke, about Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp who lives in a “wealthy community outside Dallas”? He’s filed suit along with this neighbors to block construction of a nearby water tower, “saying it is illegal and would create ‘a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,’ in part because it would provide water for use in hydraulic fracturing.”
Fracking, notes the WSJ, “is a core part of Exxon's business.” (Just to circle back to oil disasters for a moment, funny story. For 19 years, Exxon fought the Alaska residents and fishermen hurt by ecological disaster caused by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil even though in 1994, an Alaska jury awarded the victims $287 million in actual damages and $5 billion in punitive damages. Exxon kept appealing all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they got a judgment that slashed the verdict so Exxon's 30,000 plus victims could only get one-tenth of the jury’s award.)
Back to fracking and it gets even better. Writes the WSJ:
The Exxon chief isn't the most vocal or well-known opponent of the tower. He and his wife are suing under the name of their horse ranch, Bar RR Ranches LLC, along with three other couples. The lead plaintiffs are former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey and his wife, who have become fixtures at Town Council meetings. (emphasis added.)
Dick Armey essentially led the so-called “tort reform” movement in Congress while he was there. He once “compared trial lawyers to 'a bunch of vultures eating off the carcasses’” and was so anti-litigation that he wanted Congress to enact federal “no fault” auto insurance.
He failed. Hope he found himself a good lawyer. As we’ve said often, one would be hard pressed to find more hypocrites than in the “tort reform” movement.