02/25/2011 12:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

No, BP Won't Make it Right

The mounting evidence is that the Gulf Oil disaster will cost far more than originally estimated, and that BP is desperately seeking to avoid paying its share of the bill. New data suggest that young dolphins are the latest marine victims of the toxic remnants of the geyser on the floor of the Macondo rig. Marine scientists report that oil residues have not, as previously reported, been digested by bacteria and broken down, but remain on the ocean floor.

Even as the evidence mounts, scientists are hampered by a lack of resources and focus on continuing the assessment. They're worried that we might never really know the full toll of the disaster because we aren't looking in the right places.

What investigations have revealed is that BP knew of the problems with cement seals long before they failed at Macondo. In 2007 BP found that Halliburton, its contractor, couldn't properly test cement seals. Although BP knew that the cement mix it was using was unstable, it failed to oversee Halliburton to make sure nothing went wrong.

Yet in spite of this mounting evidence of BP's culpability, the company is resisting efforts to make it honor its earlier promises to "make it right." BP is challenging efforts to distribute the $20 billion fund to protect businesses and residents along the Gulf from the future damages they will suffer from the disaster. Louisiana officials report that the oil company has reneged on commitments it made earlier to help restore oyster beds and fisheries.

In fact, it appears that BP might actually benefit from its failure to oversee the drilling operation carefully. The company will argue in court that because it had so little control over the operation, its shore-based managers did not have enough information to "willfully disregard" the risks, and therefore cannot be found guilty of being "grossly negligent". This means that BP's liability might drop from $40 billion to $18 billion for its Clean Water Act violations -- and that more of the total bill would be owed by BP's partner, Anadarko Petroleum.

But these final decisions will be made in court, and the Sierra Club this week joined the lawsuits seeking to hold BP responsible for its full share of the liability and the costs. As Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said: "For too long, American taxpayers have footed the bill for polluters who destroy our water and air. We can't let that happen here. The road to restoration for the Gulf Coast will be long and hard. We need to make sure BP and the other responsible parties pay for the damage they've done. The oil industry must learn a lesson from this tragedy."