Jul 18, 2011
Residents of areas near the huge steel mill just outside Baltimore at Sparrows Point, Maryland, are furious about a recent court decision. A Federal judge ruled that neither the current owner of the mill nor either of its two previous owners are legally responsible for cleaning up widespread land and water contamination around the mill. And Bethlehem Steel, which owned the mill for many decades before this, can’t be held liable either, because it declared bankruptcy in 2003.
Everyone admits there is contamination – the EPA, Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Port Administration. They all agree that it endangers the health of people and wildlife in the area. Bethlehem was even forced to sign a consent decree agreeing to clean the contamination up six years before it declared bankruptcy. But it never did, and now the court says no one has to do it.
The Bethlehem bosses made hundreds of millions in profits over the years. The owners that followed made many millions more just by buying and selling the property. The current owner gets government subsidies and pockets untold amounts of money derived from this property.
Yet the court says none of them are liable.
A perfect picture of modern capitalism: The owners take all the benefits, but none of the risks.