Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Fines will speed gulf oil spill recovery

The federal government and rig owner Transocean both walked away winners last week in settling criminal and civil claims stemming from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The government won a record fine under the Clean Water Act, while the company removed a cloud over its operations for what was widely seen as a bargain price. It was a reasonable resolution that will speed the gulf's recovery and improve the safety of offshore drilling.

The Transocean-owned rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in April 2010 as oil giant BP drilled the Macondo well. The blowout claimed the lives of 11 workers and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the gulf. Under the deal, Transocean — which leased the rig to BP — agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act for its failure to investigate clear indications that the well was unstable. The company agreed to pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines and to implement new measures to improve safety operations and emergency response capabilities at all its drilling rigs in U.S. waters.

The $1 billion penalty under the Clean Water Act is a record amount, an appropriate fine for the largest oil spill in American history. The company will pay a criminal penalty of $100 million, plus an additional $300 million equally divided between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Transocean also agreed to continue cooperating with the government's criminal investigation.

The combined penalties are somewhat light; even as of last year, Transocean had budgeted $1.5 billion to cover any claims made by the Justice Department. Still, the agreement gets money to the gulf immediately to help repair the damage. While the fines would be paid over five years, the settlement frontloads the vast majority of the payments between now and 2015. Thanks to the recently passed Restore Act, 80 percent of the penalties will be used to pay for projects in and for the gulf states. The funds paid to the academy and the wildlife foundation will go for oil spill prevention and response efforts and for gulf-area habitat restoration projects. The deal also reserves federal claims for environmental damages and cleanup costs.

The substantial penalties and the expedited timetable for getting restoration money into the pipeline make this a good deal for the public. Having the world's largest offshore drilling contractor change its practices to improve operational safety also will have a beneficial impact throughout the industry. BP, Transocean and its partners still face a range of civil claims associated with the spill. But the government is doing a good job holding these firms responsible and fostering a new culture of safety.

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Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the stateís fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the November b...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region wonít make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Floridaís citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nationís health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

St. Petersburg city officials are exploring how to cut down on single-use plastic straws, a commendable effort to make the city even more environmentally minded. But to succeed, City Council members should craft a modest, reasonable restriction that ...
Published: 04/10/18