NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Shelley Anderson, whose husband was one of 11 workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, made a New Year's resolution to try to avoid crying in front of their children.
"Like most New Year's resolutions, I didn't do too well. Jason not being with us is hard enough for them to understand. My sorrow only makes that worse," Anderson wrote in a letter to the federal judge presiding over a plea deal that calls for BP PLC to pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the 2010 disaster.
Other victims' relatives are sharing their stories with U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance as she prepares to decide whether to accept the London-based oil giant's plea agreement with the Justice Department. Wednesday was the deadline for victims to submit written statements about the deal to Vance, who is expected to rule on BP's criminal settlement at a Jan. 29 hearing.
Siblings of another victim, Gordon Jones, said BP's sentence should include a personal apology to family members. Chris Jones said he would be satisfied if BP executives and board members visited Baton Rouge and told his brother's widow and children that they are sorry.
"As an attorney, I respect the law and the rights extended to BP," Chris Jones wrote. "But what I do not and never will respect is BP's refusal to acknowledge its responsibility for this accident."
Chris Jones also urged Vance to consider stiffer penalties that prohibit or limit the company's ability to operate in U.S. waters.
"It will move on from this and continue to make billions of dollars in profit in United States waters for its stockholders," he wrote. "Whereas BP will live on, Gordon will not."
Jason Anderson's father, Billy Fred Anderson, urged Vance to reject the deal and called for BP to pay billions more in restitution, including additional payments to families.
"The plain and simple fact here is BP killed my son in their efforts to speed up operations, to save time and money not only at the expense of my son's life, but also the lives of ten of his crew members," he wrote.
Buddy Trahan, a worker who was severely injured in the blast, also urged her to reject the deal.
"It is incomprehensible that BP will be permitted to settle its criminal liability when, after nearly 3 years of opportunity, it has failed and refused to satisfactorily address the claims of victims injured or killed as a result of its conduct," he wrote.
BP agreed in November to plead guilty to criminal charges involving the deaths of 11 workers and to lying to Congress about how much oil spilled from its blown-out well. BP can withdraw its agreement if Vance rejects the deal. If she accepts it, Vance must impose a sentence that adheres to the agreed-upon terms.
The settlement calls for BP to pay nearly $1.3 billion in fines. The largest previous corporate criminal penalty assessed by the Justice Department was a $1.2 billion fine against drug maker Pfizer in 2009.
In a court filing Wednesday, attorneys for BP and the Justice Department argue that the plea agreement imposes "severe corporate punishment" and will deter BP and other deep-water drilling companies from allowing another disaster to occur.
"This severe financial sanction is on top of the $24.2 billion BP has already spent on clean-up efforts, various litigation and other claims settlements," they wrote.
The deal doesn't resolve the federal government's civil claims against BP, which could pay billions more in penalties.
Jessica Manuel, whose father, Keith Blair Manuel, was killed in the explosion, said no amount of money will be enough to make up for her family's loss.
"My baby boy will never know what a wonderful grandfather he had," she wrote. "We can no longer enjoy holidays or family vacations without having a black cloud over us missing our dad."
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.