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Why Obey Environmental Laws? Flouting Them Cheaper For Some Businesses

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 12:35 PM
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Why Obey Environmental Laws? Flouting Them Cheaper For Some Businesses
FREELAND, Whidbey Island -- The 360-foot-long paddlewheel steamboat was late for delivery. The Nichols Brothers customer was losing millions. With no legal way to launch the steamer into shallow Holmes Harbor, Matt Nichols directed his boatyard workers to do exactly what the government told him not to do: install an unpermitted boat ramp. A federal official scolded Nichols for building the ramp, but decided to allow its use to avoid "the substantial economic consequences of delaying this launch."

Then boatyard employees botched the June 2003 launch of the $45 million Empress of the North, sending it careening down the ramp at warp speed. Stuck in the mud, it had to be pulled free by tugboats whose propeller wash gouged out more than 65,000 square feet of eelgrass, an area considerably bigger than a football field -- critical shelter for tiny fish that sustain the Puget Sound food chain.

Over the years, the boatyard also has put up temporary buildings without the required permits, installed an unapproved septic system and been cited for, among other things, filling in wetlands and ripping up tidelands without a permit. The saga of Nichols Brothers shows how environmental agencies are hamstrung by businesses that repeatedly fail to follow the rules. Critics say it's a flagrant example of how the state's Hydraulic Code -- a set of rules meant to safeguard shorelines -- frequently doesn't protect the Sound.

"I think they have a motto that is: 'Catch me if you can,' " said Christine Goodwin, president of Friends of Holmes Harbor, a group that monitors the health of the harbor. "They do what they need to do to build that boat." Responds Bryan Nichols, Matt's son and president of the company: "I really hope I can prove her wrong. I guess we'll have to keep a clean record from here on."

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htuttle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 12:43 PM
Response to Original message
1. This is why we need a 'corporate death penalty'
If Corporations have the same rights under the constitution as 'persons', then there should be the equivalent of a 'death penalty' (ie., forced liquidation of assets) for flagrant corporate offenders.

Otherwise, the Chicago School of Economics' philosophy, which has been all the rage the last 20-30 years or so, literally teaches prospective capitalists that if you can make more money breaking the law than you risk in penalities by breaking the law, then you OWE it to your stockholders to break those laws and make more money.

A corporate death penalty would take care of that idea right off, however...

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Salviati Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 12:54 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Either that, or factor in the chances of being caught...
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 12:54 PM by Salviati
For example, if complying with the law would cost $10,000, and only about 10% of violators are caught, then the fine for violation should be at least ($10,000)/(0.10) = $100,000, so that it's not worth it to even _risk_ breaking the law, not just not being caught. Tack on a nice multiplicative factor of about 10 for emphasis, and not paying the $10,000 to comply may give you a 10% chance of being fined up a million dollars, not a very good financial risk if you ask me...
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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 04:02 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. I've favored a corporate death penalty for some time ...
If anything, the crucial distinction between a real person and a fictitious corporate 'body' is that a fictitious entity cannot suffer traumatic pain, irreparable injury or irreversible death due to accidents, assault, or harmful exposure; all can be remedied by influx of capital.

'Death' for a corporation only means that its parts are scattered and sold off ... death for a real person means the loss of everything, and no rescue effort can reverse the process.

In view of this, we should be extremely averse to any thought of imposing a death penalty on real persons, for a wrong decision is a tragedy which can never be undone ... a similar restraint does not apply to death penalties for corporations which commit acts causing harm or death to real persons; on the contrary, it should be the usual punishment in such cases.
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 09:22 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. I would go so far
as to call for a corporate "death penalty" for CEOs and other high-ranking employees who allow this sort of thing to happen.

Make it personal: if you are in the management of a company that flagrantly violates the laws, even after corporate liquidation, hold the CEOs accountable by not giving government contracts or permits to companies that employ said CEOs.

THAT would put the fear of god into 'em.
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 12:49 PM
Response to Original message
2. Most major companies do this, not just environmentally
When I worked at the home office of Casual Corner, the company had a full-time person on staff whose only job was dealing with fines and regulatory issues. For instance, in many states it is illegal to sell "pre-marked" merchandise as "sale" merchandise. A pre-mark is when the company has the manufacturer place price tags on the garment indicating a high initial retail price, with a fake hand-written-looking sale price pre-printed on the ticket. The item was never sold at the higher price, but most consumers don't notice the hand written markdown is actually a computer font, and think they're getting a deal.

The fine in many states was $1000-$5000. By the time they are caught violating the law, the company has sold $3 million dollars worth of "illegal" merch. The so-called fines were just considered a cost of doing business. If there are to be punative fines for illegal behavior, make them preportional to the financial hardship any average jamoke would be hit with for, say, a DUI or some other offense. Make it hurt. Make them say "shit, this ain't worth it!" instead of writing the cost of the fines into the bottom line.

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nam78_two Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 01:02 PM
Response to Original message
4. This is what is so dismaying about environmental laws being overturned
Most of the ones that are in place aren't even being obeyed.

I have friends working in my state's environmental protection/law offices and they tell me that there are too few people at work looking into violations of such laws and most people who hold these jobs don't even care too much about enforcing them.

Its also a very bad idea to put people who don't care about the environment in charge of overlooking stuff like this and that would be most of them...
:banghead: :banghead:
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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 09:23 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. Most of the agency people I know
are ignert as hell.
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