Thursday, June 03, 2010

BP: The U.S. Government’s Omission

Only two months before the catastrophic drilling explosion on April 20, BP filed a 52-page exploration and environmental impact plan with the Minerals Management Service (MMS), an arm of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees offshore drilling. The plan stated that it was “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities.” And, in the event that an accident did occur, since the well was 48 miles from shore and “response capabilities” would be implemented, “no significant adverse impacts would be expected.” After concluding that a massive oil spill was indeed unlikely, the Department of the Interior exempted BP's Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact study.

Next, even after a whistleblower report to the MMS, just one month later, revealed that “over 85% of [BP’s proposed rigs] lacked final engineer-approval, and that the project should be immediately shut down until those documents could be accounted for and are independently verified,” the approval was not reconsidered.

And, for the record, according to an AP report, “the leader of botched containment efforts in the critical hours after the [Exxon Valdez] tanker ran aground wasn't Exxon Mobil Corp. It was BP PLC, the same firm now fighting to plug the Gulf leak.”

Thus, doesn’t it strike you as strange that BP apparently did not have a crisis plan?

It’s now been two months since the incident, and there is still no explanation for what triggered the explosion; the leak has yet to be plugged; and a huge underwater oil gusher continues to spill into the Gulf, disrupting the area’s economy and wreaking environmental havoc.

To survive this catastrophe and keep the company intact, BP must practice full immediate disclosure … on everything. Here are some examples:

• Reveal the true magnitude of the leak, as soon as is feasible and make publicly available any data and other information related to the oil spill that has been collected, as soon as it is collected.
• Enable reporters’ visits to the beaches and the Gulf for reports on the disaster.
• Disclose the results of its tests of chemical dispersants used on the spill.
• Continue to make live video feeds of the oil spill available over the internet.

In a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, 76% of Americans say they disapprove of BP’s response to the spill and 51% say they disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the crisis.

Hopefully, this disaster will be a beacon for our government for its own standards and the need to make crisis planning a regulatory requirement for all oil, chemical and other companies that could potentially endanger the environment.

Technorati Tags: BP Global, BP plc, oil spill, Minerals Management Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, offshore drilling, Gulf of Mexico, crisis, communications, public relations, Makovsky


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your masterful analysis, as always. However, the government's lackadaisical unresponsiveness is equally at fault here. Many actions should have been taken and attempted to protect the Gulf states that were not. BP is unforgivable in it's unpreparedness, but, to me, the passivity of the federal government seems equally and tragically inadequate and unacceptably unproactive. Rather an equal mea culpa due from both, I'd say.

Tim Askew
Corporate Rain Intl.

Thursday, June 03, 2010 6:17:00 PM  
Blogger Hans Sandberg said...

I couldn't agree more: The key thing for BP - besides cleaning up the mess it made - is to come clean itself. But there is a side story here: We allowed it to happen, we voted for politicians who allowed it to happen. We believed in experts who said that nothing bad can happen. If anything, the disaster calls for more - and more efficient - government, more - and better - regulation, and - above all - making the environment a top priority. If cheap gasoline is all we want, well then we should keep doing what Sarah Palin urged us to do... drill, baby drill. If not, well then we need to rethink our relation to nature.

Friday, June 04, 2010 9:32:00 AM  

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