You Spilled It, You Killed It, You’re Billed It

by sherry mann

BP should read the EPA posters in many of its “service stations.”

EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response launched the “You Dump It, You Drink It” campaign to promote the proper management of used motor oil by “do-it-yourself’ consumers who change their own oil. According to the EPA, Americans who change their own oil throw away 120 million gallons of recoverable motor oil by dumping it on the ground, pouring it down storm drains, or putting it in trash cans. The penalty for anyone caught dumping used oil in Kentucky for example, may be fined up to $1,000.

The following is the text of these EPA posters aimed at service stations. Those suggestions in bold should be faxed to BP headquarters stat…especially number three.

Managing Oil Spills

“You dump it, you drink it.”

1) Take steps to prevent spills. Keep machinery, equipment, containers and tanks in good working condition and be careful when transferring used motor oil.

2) Have clean-up materials, such as rags, booms or sand, readily available.

3) Stop the oil from flowing at the source. If a leak from a container or tank cannot be stopped, put the oil in another holding container.

4) Contain spilled oil. Spread sand or other clean-up materials over the oil and surrounding area.

5) Clean up and recycle used motor oil. Remove the used oil from any clean-up materials, don’t mix it with anything and send it to a re-refiner when possible.

6) Remove, repair or replace the defective tank or container immediately.

According to the EPA, “used oil from a single oil change can ruin a million gallons of fresh water – a year’s supply for 50 people.” So, if someone dumped the oil from a single oil change (which is an average of one gallon of oil), he could ruin the fresh water supply of 50 people and could face a $1000 fine–for a gallon.


Estimates for the current flow of oil per day at BP’s Gulf disaster are anywhere between 200,000-2,900,000 of gallons per day. Let’s say the Gulf oil spill has spewed only 400,000 gallons each of the past 25 days. That’s a total of 10,000,000 gallons of oil.

According to the EPA’s statistics, ten trillion gallons of water have already been ruined, which is the annual water supply needed for five hundred million people.

Also, if $1000 is a reasonable fine for dumping one gallon for a do-it-yourselfer, then using that same penalty, BP would already owe ten billion in fines (10,000,000 gallons times $1000) to neighboring Gulf states.

Tony Buzbee of the Buzbee Law Firm has handled roughly 250 cases against BP over the years — collecting more than $200 million in settlements — and has 130 current BP cases that don’t even involve the latest oil spill. Buzbee admits that the oil business is dangerous, but BP is in a class by themselves. Buzbee said, “Shoot, I’ve tried cases against BP, and even pounded them with a $100.3 million verdict, and they don’t get it. They don’t get that they need to change their way of doing business.”

Maybe that’s because corporate fines should be more proportional based on annual income, especially for the repeat offenders found at BP. While Buzbee may feel that a $100 million verdict is a “pounding”, it’s actually less than 4 hours of BP profits which are the settlements of everything from huge spills to wrongful death claims. Let’s see how that kind of “pounding” compares with the fines imposed on the Average Joe for dumping a gallon of oil.

The overall median personal income for all individuals over the age of 18 (an adult who could be held criminally liable for dumping) was $25,149 in the year 2005. A thousand dollar fine would be 5% of his annual wages. 5% of BP’s annual revenue (of 14 billion) is $800,000, so if all things were proportional, the fine per gallon would be $800,000. If that figure is multiplied by 10 million gallons, you have 8 trillion dollars. That seems like a fitting fine considering that is roughly how much we’ve spent on the US military budget which has been fighting abroad for “big oil’s” pipelines and wells over the past ten years.

That kind of penalty could be the kind of poetic “pounding” that would motivate BP to “change their way of doing business,” and that’s why the EPA should change their “Managing Oil Spills” campaign slogan to “You Spilled It, You Killed It, You’re Billed It.”


  1. Charles Robert

    May 17, 2010 at 9:37 am

    As sort of a side note, it’s interesting that Goldman Sachs placed a short bet on a number of Golf oil rigs, including the Horizon just two days before the accident. They also “made billions shorting AIG” and have placed “The Biggest Short Bet In The History Of The Euro.
    Hmmmm: Rigging up for crude oil production is one thing, but for crude and advantageous gain is quite another.

  2. sherry

    May 17, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Great info Charlie…you always manage to kick it up a notch! Thanks for the tip!

    I had had the brief thought this morning somewhat along those lines when I read this…

    “If there are, in fact, 2.94 million gallons of oil lost in the Gulf each day, then at what point are we the consumers going to start subsidizing the screw up by these companies by paying more for gas at the pump? At what point do we start asking ourselves, was this accidental? At what point do we start actually giving a damn?

    “There is a guiding principle in Anglo-American law: One should not profit from his own wrongdoing. In California, this “common law” principle is codified by statute in our Civil Code at section 3517 [No one can take advantage of his own wrong]. What an absolute travesty and mockery it will be if these companies actually become richer as a result of their misconduct.”


    May 28, 2010 at 10:45 am

    If necessary nationalize B.P. and Halliburton for the duration of the cleanup.

    How long of a string of barrier islands can be built with scuttled B.P. and Halliburton supertankers?

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