When Being Held Responsible is a 'Tragedy'

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[Shani Hilton]

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said at today's congressional hearing that he's "ashamed" the White House locked in a $20 billion escrow account from BP for the people of the gulf affected by the oil spill. Calling it a "tragedy of the first proportion," he referred to the fund as a "shakedown." I do find the wording odd ("proportion" aside)--I'd refer to oil spill itself as a tragedy.


Of course, Adam says it better:

BP's irresponsibility has led to the largest environmental disaster in American history, one that wreak untold havok on the livelihoods of people living in states along the Gulf Coast, but Republicans think holding them accountable for it is somehow beyond the pale. According to Open Secrets, Barton has received $1,448,380 from oil and gas companies over the years, so maybe that explains his hostility to making oil companies pay for the damage they cause. But apoplexy over the idea that corporations that cause ecological disasters should be held accountable seems to be the standard Republican response to the agreement.

The party of personal responsibility seems to think that corporations, while persons, aren't personally responsible for anything.

Also, a story in The New York Times notes that Exxon Valdez-sized oil spills occur regularly in Nigeria. I have friends who say they've stopped buying gas from BP--but Shell and Exxon Mobil aren't free and clear. They're responsible for several of the spills in Nigeria.

I knew that Nigeria was a top oil producer, but it never occurred to me that it would constantly be facing leaks and spills. 11 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Niger delta every year for the last 50 years. And the 2.5 million gallons that may be leaking in the Gulf of Mexico every day are nothing to sneeze at, but it's no wonder one of the Nigerian officials interviewed in the Times story said, "We're sorry for them, but it's what's been happening to us for 50 years."
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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