BP to Pay 'Largest Settlement With a Single Entity in American History'
As the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday a final settlement with BP over the devastating 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, groups are warning that the oil giant may still nab a substantial tax break under the deal.
The U.S. Coast Guard battles flames following the explosion on BP's offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard / Wikimedia Commons
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the $20.8 billion settlement agreement marks the "the largest settlement with a single entity in American history." The resolution includes $5.5 billion to settle civil claims under the Clean Water Act; $7.1 billion in natural resources damages claims under the Oil Pollution Act, in addition to the $1 billion previously committed for early restoration and $4.9 billion in economic damages claims to the five Gulf states and up to $1 billion for local governments.
However, reporting by the Times-Picayune highlighted the little-noticed detail that, while the U.S. Department of Justice has explicitly forbidden BP from deducting its Clean Water Act penalties, no restrictions have been placed on the billions labeled natural resource damages payments, restoration and reimbursement to government, which it can treat as a business expense.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) says this amounts to $15.3 billion that can be written off as the "cost of doing business"—$5.35 billion of which can be claimed as a tax windfall.
"BP was found to be grossly negligent in the Deepwater Horizon case and yet the vast majority of what they are paying to make up for their gross negligence is legally considered just business as usual under the tax code unless the U.S. Department of Justice explicitly prohibits a write-off," said Michelle Surka, program associate with U.S. PIRG. "This not only sends the wrong message, but it also hurts taxpayers by forcing us to shoulder the burden of BP’s tax windfall in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public programs and more national debt."
Environmental watchdog group Friends of the Earth also noted that the Deepwater Horizon disaster has already allowed BP sizable tax benefits, including the $10 billion windfall it was able to secure by deducting the cost of its cleanup expenses.
"BP should not be allowed to treat the costs of their disaster as the cost of doing business," said Friends of the Earth climate and energy campaigner Lukas Ross. "We are concerned that this settlement doesn’t protect taxpayers. The justice department must ensure that no further tax benefits can accrue to the company responsible for perhaps the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history."
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They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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