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Study Finds BP Disaster Response Fits Pattern Seen in NV

July 20, 2010

LAS VEGAS - While BP and the Obama administration debate whether the lid on the Gulf oil spill is shut tight, a new study finds that big corporations are practiced in the art of delay and avoidance when it comes to obeying environmental laws. Tough environmental laws were passed in the 1960s and '70s, but Ray De Lorenzi, communications director for the American Association for Justice, says lax enforcement gave big corporations little incentive to comply.

He says the response has been the same from the Exxon Valdez spill in the late '80s to the present spill in the Gulf.

"You've seen corporations respond to disasters by just delaying and delaying and passing the buck and hoping that the outrage will just dissipate over time."

Many corporations argue lawyers already have too much leeway and that's why there should be caps on civil damages, but De Lorenzi says the BP spill shows why you can't put a price tag on a disaster in advance.

"I think people realize how misguided and how nonsensical that is; it's unfortunate that only through disaster or tragedy that people begin to understand why a strong civil justice system is so necessary."

Peggy Pauly, founder of the Yerington Community Action Group in Nevada, says delay has been the order of the day for BP and other owners of the Anaconda Copper mine in Yerington. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the old mine is leaching hazards, but Pauly says there has been little urgency on the part of the current owners in cleaning up the mess.

"They know how to keep their money in the bank, and just do as little as they have to do as slowly as possible, and just legally drag their feet."

The American Association for Justice study released this month found that state and federal agencies are often underfunded, undermanned, and overpowered by the industries they are trying to monitor, and as a result the civil justice system has become one of the main vehicles for the public to get results.

The report, "Hazardous to Your Health: How the Civil Justice System Holds Corporate Polluters Accountable," is available at

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV