Lack of accountability, lack of proper maintenance, and tactics designed to evade the repercussions of these practices have been demonstrated by the petroleum industry for as long as the use of oil for energy has existed. Today, these practices have begun to be very visible to Americans.
To augment profits oil companies engage in practices which externalize their costs to individual Americans by minimizing their obligation to compensate those harmed in multiple ways. The damage done to individuals and families forced to assume these costs personally is horrendous.
Litigation can extend for years while the damage caused continues to act on those exposed to it. This is wrong and must change – and it can.
After studying the problem exhaustively we have put together a different approach to accomplish a specific list of problems. We are persuaded these will better serve everyone, including the oil companies.
Below are the four issues which we have identified and for which we have solutions.
Immediate notification of all individuals in the impacted area
Rapid relocation of these impacted individuals
Lowered cost of litigation
Compiled body of evidence presented in an easily understandable form for both the public
and the jury.
Issue One: Immediate Notification
Notification can take place using an automated system which directly contacts everyone in the impacted area. This system has been designed and we need minimal funding to make it available throughout North America. Other areas can then be added. The technologies to provide the information can be installed very affordably in every area. This eliminates the lapses in time when the company fails to inform those who are being impacted.
Issue Two: Rapid Relocation
Establishing a Qualified Settlement Funds 468b trust needs to become routine. The funds made available by the offending company can be deducted from the company taxes and will lower the amount needed to provide real compensation to victims. Since the funds are made available to the victims directly they can handle their own relocation needs and those of their households.
The need to leave the area is elemental, proven over and over again to be necessary. Oil companies have, historically, denied the need to relocate victims because doing so is costly and also tacitly admits they know danger exists. Jan Schlichtmann, whose work was chronicled in A Civil Action, documented this tool for handling this critical time.
Issue Three: Lowered Cost for Litigation
The hours billed by legal firms are far more costly than having the victims provide the lengthy facts and documentation to a consulting firm which undertakes to compile and integrate this information in the form we have suggested. Following this plan the need for litigation is reduced to review of the evidence, preliminary negotiation, if needed, choosing of the jury, and representation in court if the matter has not been settled.
The benefit is to lower the hours charged to trained personnel who focus on these needs, working with the victims. The work of Erin Brockovitch proved this can be easily transferred.
Issue Four: Body of Evidence which is easily understood by non-technical viewers
This issue has been our main focus for the last year. A presentation, with full documentation and referential documents and materials provided either by CD or in printed form, can be produced to be viewed by non-technical people taking only a few minutes. This eliminates the need for long trials, reducing the cost here as well.
Our certified expert witness, Dave Lincoln, is now preparing to train others in the culture and practices of the oil industry so the observed events become comprehensible to those without this background. Every step has been accounted for and is included in the introduction to the Body of Evidence.
The potential for this arises out of the advance of technology using computerized resources, programming and the technologies now in use in various industries.
As Americans and people we need to ensure those impacted are treated justly, compensated, and can move on with their lives with dignity and their health and financial assets preserved.
This formulation for action can accomplish the four goals outlined, which are at the core of the present problems.