In the past month, the American people have been bombarded with a vast public relations effort by BP. This effort, which includes paid advertisements and news releases, is obviously designed by BP to change the public’s opinion about a massive settlement that the oil giant negotiated and agreed to. BP now wants out of its settlement. During the past 3 years, I have learned that BP is a master at the public relations game. But during that time I have also learned that BP’s safety performance, as well as its overall corporate conduct, has been unbelievably bad. I will give you a timeline that tells the story of how BP has performed relating to safety. Suffice it to say, it’s not a good record. In fact, it’s a terribly bad record and one that indicates a corporate mindset that puts profits first, with safety falling far down the list of priorities.
The BP Safety Record
• September, 1999. BP dumped hazardous wastes in Alaska, resulting in tremendous damage. BP paid $22 million in fines and penalties.
• May-June, 2000. In Grangemouth, Scotland, there were three separate incidents that resulted in two criminal charges. BP pled guilty and was fined £1 million.
• March, 2005. The Texas City Refinery Explosion occurred, resulting in 15 deaths, with another 180 injured. BP pled guilty to felony violations.
• In 2005, BP pays $60 million as a result of Air Pollution violations in California.
• March, 2006. BP pipeline corrodes and dumps largest spill ever on Alaska’s North Slope. The damage was severe and intensive.
• April, 2006. BP was fined for unsafe conditions at a Oregon-Ohio Refinery.
• 2007-2010. BP refineries in Texas and others accounted for 97 percent of all Petroleum Industry Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations (760 BP violations) in the U.S. BP was cited for “egregious, willful” misconduct.
• 2007. BP paid $300 million in fines and penalties relating to an illegal price fixing scheme. While it didn’t relate to safety issues, it tells us lots about BP’s mindset.
• October, 2009. BP had 270 safety violations, paid fines and penalties, and pled guilty to felony violations.
• April, 2010. As the world knows, the Deepwater Horizon Semi-submersible explodes, kills 11 people, injures 16, and sets off the largest oil spill in the history of the Petroleum Industry.
• December, 2012. BP pleads guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter (Misconduct or neglect of Ship Officers), 2 misdemeanors, 1 count of perjury as a result of lying to Congress and pays $4.5 billion in criminal fines and penalties.
• So far in 2013, BP has spent about $600 million in attacks on its own uncapped settlement fund, a Federal Judge, a Special Master, small businesses, innocent claimants – all in a slick attempt to shift the public and courtroom focus from its Trail of Tragedy and Tears to a “Good Guy Corporate Image.”
BP is currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince the public that it’s a good corporate citizen, a company that truly cares about safety and one that is being badly mistreated by the courts. In fact, I am convinced that BP, by its tactics, is really attempting to influence the judicial system. All of this is related to the ongoing litigation over the worst oil spill ever, which is in a New Orleans federal court. In any event, the public should check out the BP safety record and see if the oil giant’s advertising claims and public pronouncements match up with the stark reality of the company’s actual record.
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