One year after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, life has not returned to normal in the Gulf. Tourism and fishing industries remain crippled, communities are faced with outbreaks of disease, and thousands of miles of coastal wetlands have been destroyed.
However, it would appear that despite all the devastation one thing has returned to normal: the oil industry.
And who of us really expected that they wouldn't? I mean, we certainly would not be so naïve as to believe that the big oil companies responsible for the spill would simply be morally convicted and see to it that nothing like this would ever occur again.
No, perhaps not.
But where corporate altruism failed, many of us expected Congress to step up and take action. Indeed, in the month after the spill, upon the urging of many from the faith community, Democrats and Republicans joined together in an unusual bipartisan effort to increase oil companies' liability limit for offshore oil spills. Yet, in the end, the effort was shut down and as of today no changes have been made to the liability cap. Congress has also failed to make any substantial progress on legislation that would dedicate 80 percent of oil spill penalties to important Gulf coast restoration efforts.
In fact, the only Gulf Coast-related legislation Congress seems to be concerned with are several bills which would speed up the pace of offshore drilling.
Recently the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released a study which concluded that the oil industry is in need of fundamental reforms in the federal regulatory and self-regulatory processes. Otherwise, the commission warned, another imminent spill is likely to occur.
So the question now remains: Will Congress stand up to the Goliath of Big Oil, speak truth to power, and demand institutional reforms to protect our environment, ecosystems, and communities?
Well, if Paul Ryan's proposed FY 2012 budget is passed, you can bet the answer to that question will be a resounding "no!" Not only does his budget proposal include approximately $40 billion in tax loopholes for the oil industry, but it simultaneously slashes funding for research into alternative clean energy technologies which would help wean our nation off of our severe oil addiction.
So while Paul Ryan and his compatriots demand that we balance our national budget and decrease our debt, they are simultaneously refusing to even touch corporate subsidies, tax breaks, and benefits. This should hardly come as a surprise, given the pervasive power that corporate lobbyists wield on both sides of the aisle, especially from the likes of the oil industry.
What incentive do lawmakers have to penalize, tax, and regulate the oil industry when not doing so costs them virtually nothing politically? If our senators and representatives are only feeling the pressure from high-powered lobbyists who can offer campaign contribution bribery, why should we expect them to do anything but turn a blind eye to the misconduct of Big Oil?
Fortunately, the faith community has a strong part to play in articulating to Congress the moral imperative to seek justice in the aftermath of the Gulf Oil Spill.
This week, the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, presents a unique window of opportunity where our nation's collective attention will once again turn back to the Gulf. We have a chance in these next few days to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and call for real, lasting reform to ensure that this type of disaster is never allowed to happen again.
Andrew Simpson is a policy intern for Sojourners.