Editorial: What’s the penalty for BP?

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What will be the consequences for BP, Halliburton and Transocean?

When a restaurant breaks the health code too many times, the government closes the place, often resulting in the end of the business.

When a bank goes too deep in debt, the government takes over and shuts the bank down.

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From meat lockers to hotels, small businesses face regulations week in and week out that threaten to end what they do. They face regulators who have the power to end their profits.

Any and all of their mistakes pale in comparison with the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of failures on the part of BP, Halliburton and Transocean.

So where is the line drawn? Will these big companies be shut down, too?

Why don’t big companies have to face the same perils that small companies face?

We read in print that the oil spill cost will cut into BP’s profits by $1 billion this year. That equals 5 percent of what it made before the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Minutes later, we heard on the radio that regulators shut down Pinehurst Bank in St. Paul because of bad debt.

Pollute the Gulf of Mexico? You can stay in business.

Have too much negative capital at a one branch bank in St. Paul? You can’t.

Which is worse?

The oil spill, of course.

Should there come a point in cases of environmental pollution that they are not allowed to exist as companies doing business in the United States anymore, just like how regulations limit and terminate small businesses?

Sell off the assets. Use the proceeds to pay for the oil cleanup. That won’t happen, but that said, it sure would be wrong to have U.S. tax dollars paying for any of this cleanup.