Yesterday marked the start of the civil trial to hold BP accountable for the 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. As dawn broke in New Orleans, 50 Gulf coast residents and representatives from National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, Levees.org, Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club and university students came to the Hale Boggs Federal Courthouse to demonstrate that they, like rest of the nation, expect BP to pay for the destruction in the Gulf of Mexico.
Three years after the devastating Deepwater Horizon explosion, the gulf is still suffering. Dolphins are still dying in high numbers of as-yet unexplained causes and additional oil washes ashore after each big storm. In his opening statements today, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell stated that one million barrels of oil remains unaccounted for.
Some people may be asking, “Hasn’t BP paid for the damage?” and the simple answer is no. BP did pay a record-breaking $4 billion penalty in the criminal portion of the case, but BP still faces tens of billions in civil penalties for reckless violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act.
One of the main issues at hand is whether or not BP is guilty of “gross negligence.” With everything the public knows about the failed tests, the intentional misrepresentations about the size of the spill, and BP’s abysmal safety record, NWF’s legal experts believe the case should be a clear-cut case of gross negligence.
However, media reports indicate that the Department of Justice may have offered BP a lower-than-expected settlement. Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation said, “A potential settlement as low as the reported $16 billion would not be much of a deterrent for an oil giant like BP—and it is unlikely to be enough to fully restore the Gulf of Mexico as the law requires. The Obama Administration can and must do more to hold BP accountable.”
Here's a recap of day one of the BP oil spill trial from Whit Remer, policy analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund:
Yesterday, I watched opening statements from inside the courtroom of one of the most complex and high stakes trials in this nation’s history. The first day of the BP trial consisted of nearly six and a half hours of opening statements by both sides of the litigation. Opening statements allow each party the opportunity to present on overview of their case. On the plaintiffs’ side, attorneys represented citizens who lost income as a result of the oil spill as well as the federal and state governments pursuing claims for economic and environmental damages. On the defense side, BP and other companies involved in the spill spent the majority of the time pointing fingers at each other over who was at fault for the events leading up to one of the nation’s largest environmental disasters.
The first phase of the trial is scheduled to last three months and will focus on the events that caused the explosion aboard the troubled rig. On the plaintiffs’ side, attorneys focused on a series of missteps, mainly taken by BP, that that took the lives of 11 men and spilled millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of attention was focused on BP putting profit over protection. Plaintiffs painted BP as a company more worried about making money than the safety of its workers or practicing responsible drilling in the gulf. BP defended itself by saying that while they did make some mistakes, their actions didn’t amount to gross negligence.
BP’s irresponsibility will be an overarching theme of the trial. Should the judge determine that the company acted grossly negligent or with willful disregard, then BP faces civil Clean Water Act fines of $17.6 billion. Later phases in the trial will also determine the extent of damages to the gulf ecosystem, which could also reach the tens of billions of dollars.
All parties to the litigation have incentive to settle. The government would like to resolve Clean Water Act fines and natural resources damages so that money can be used to begin important ecosystem restoration. For BP, trial has brought bad PR and uncertainty for investors that will keep them at the bargaining table. In such a high stakes legal dance, both parties need to remember that the gulf is still reeling from damage caused by the oil spill. As Buddy Caldwell, Attorney General for the state of Louisiana, noted this morning, officials continue to find oil just 30 miles from the court steps in Barataria Bay, La. It’s time for BP to stop stalling and pay up for the damage they caused in the gulf.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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