Environmental Disasters: Destructive Deceptions

OnderLaw is dedicated to holding corporations accountable for environmental disasters such as oil spills, train derailments, chemical spills, and deadly pollution. These disasters destroy public and private water systems, threaten groundwater, soil, and air, and cost municipalities, water companies, school districts, private land owners, and tribal, state, and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars.

For us, it’s not only about winning in court. These disasters affect our friends and our neighbors, and they leave deep scars on the environment that limit the future for generations to come. They poison the land and water, increase risk for cancers and other diseases, and destroy opportunities for recreation and joy that make life worth living.

Instead, we are leaving an uncertain future for them. It’s up to us to change it.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Beaches stained black. Whales and dolphins littered, lifeless, on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Seagulls no longer shining white, resting in a sea of oil and covered in oil. Seabirds trying their hardest to flap their wings and escape, but caught like fish in a net in the thick black sea, with viscous oil congealing around their feathers. And thousands of people’s lives ruined as well.

This was the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, just one of hundreds of environmental disasters that are cumulatively threatening our environment and our future on the planet.

The United States has suffered some of the most devastating environmental disasters in the world in recent decades. From oil spills to train derailments, the American people have lost jobs, homes, and businesses, have been uprooted from their communities, and worst of all, lost loved ones.

The real stomach turning side of such disasters though, one that tends to destroy public trust, is the deceptive messaging spread following disasters by corporations and state and federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), intensifying the damage done to those caught in the disaster.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 was one of the most devastating disasters in recent years. An offshore oil rig, leased by British Petroleum (BP), exploded off the Louisiana coast. Eleven workers were killed when natural gases travelled up the rig and were ignited. The rig soon collapsed, and the government estimated around 60,000 barrels of oil polluted the ocean each day — 4.2 million barrels in total.

It was the largest marine oil spill in history.

BP grossly claimed that the amount of oil spilled was minimal, around 1,000 barrels a day. A court found that BP made “profit-driven decisions,” and that “these instances of negligence evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks.” BP also made drastic and false claims about the quality of their clean-up efforts, lying to those who depended on the results.

The people relying on the company so that they could return to work, so that tourists could return to their once beautiful beaches, and that their lives and livelihoods could continue. And we must not forget about the local fishing industry that collapsed.

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Love Canal Catastrophe

This, however, is not just a modern development of greed. Incidents in which corporations destroy homes and lives then gaslight the people most affected are not new.

What is considered by some to be the worst ever environmental disaster involving chemical waste occurred in the New York neighborhood of Love Canal in 1978.

Hooker Chemicals and Plastics organization used the Love Canal area as a dumping ground for 22,000 tons of their chemical waste. Among them were barrels of pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls. The dump was covered over and gifted to the city of Niagara Falls. But it wasn’t a gift at all. Housing was built on the land, and in 1978 the leakage of toxicants was discovered in the basements of family homes.

Hooker Chemicals continuously denied any wrongdoing in the matter following the discovery. The EPA was alarming slow to react to any of this, even with substantial testing showing dangerous implications.

The community was slowly destroyed by the pollution, and the messaging of the EPA and Hooker Chemicals only exacerbated the damage. They continued to assure residents that they were safe, even though they knew that they were slowly killing the people living there.

For decades, residents of the area suffered the consequences. Unusually high chromosomal damage, birth defects, and cancer riddled the community.

It took years for anything to be done and for the destructive, deceptive messaging to stop. It ended with Love Canal being abandoned and a $20 million settlement in favor of the residents, after a long, hard fought litigation battle.

Today, $20 million is usually a pittance in cases like this. Back then, however, this type of litigation was new. The Environmental Protection Agency had only been established a decade prior, and Americans were only just becoming aware of the implications of these types of pollutants on their lives.

Hurricane Katrina

In 2005, one of the most upsetting and destructive natural environmental disasters hit the southern coast of the United States: Hurricane Katrina. But it wasn’t only the wrath of the hurricane that destroyed lives. It was the fact that agencies and people who were supposed to help turned a blind eye, resulting in thousands of destroyed lives.

The loss of life and property was harrowing. But the thing that came under the most criticism was the U.S. government’s ineffective, inefficient response. The people did not receive the help that they needed.

It was quickly proven that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, lied about their ability to deal with the incident and their resources to do so. Many were forced to fend for themselves, and the entire nation lost trust in the government.

It wasn’t just the government that was creating a false narrative. The media sensationalized and overreported the small amount of looting and violence that happened in the city, changing the perception of those affected and slowing down much-needed help.

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Together, We Can Create Change

The United States has undergone some of the most disastrous environmental catastrophes in the last few decades, and some of the most destructive public and private responses to them imaginable. This sort of messaging has happened dozens of times before, and will continue to happen if we don’t hold these institutions accountable for their mistakes.

The environmental lawyers at OnderLaw is holding corporations accountable for chemical spills, oil spills, and other acts of negligence and greed that destroy public and private lands.

If you or your organization have been financially or physically impacted by an environmental disaster caused by a corporation, join us. We have the strength and experience to hold them accountable and to change the way they do business.
When we tell polluters that we will not be complacent when they harm the environment, we tell companies everywhere that they need to be cautious and conscious of the things we hold most dear. Together, we are making a better world for generations to come.

Call 314-963-9000 for a free, no-obligation consultation.