Environment & Health

Investigative Pieces Probe Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

An array of investigative pieces have appeared on ABC News, the ProPublica website and inThe Wall Street Journal about the recent deadly oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico. Here are some highlights:

ABC News reports that BP has been fighting safety regulation for years.

In a letter sent last year to the Department of the Interior, BP objected to what it called “extensive, prescriptive regulations” proposed in new rules to toughen safety standards. “We believe industry's current safety and environmental statistics demonstrate that the voluntary programs…continue to be very successful.”

But this resistance goes all the way back to the Clinton government. The oil company has lobbied hard to prevent the additional safety measures — and been pretty successful. The Sierra Club's chairman told ABC that despite questions raised during the Bush administration about an additional layer of safeguards, the federal government decided not to push for more mandatory safety measures as they believed — get this — “the industry would be motivated to do it themselves.” Yeaaaaaah.

Thanks to Rhonda Schwartz, Brian Ross and Matthew Mosk for digging into BP's history of fighting safety rules. Read the entire story here.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time that BP has found itself at the center of a major environmental disaster, reports ProPublica's Abrahm Lustgarten.

In March 2005, a massive explosion ripped through a tower at BP's refinery in Texas City, Texas, killing 15 workers and injuring 170 others. Investigators later determined that the company had ignored its own protocols on operating the tower, which was filled with gasoline, and that a warning system had been disabled.

The company pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and was fined more than $50 million by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The article goes on to cite multiple oil spills in Alaska and fines the company faced as a result of them. In the past year, Lustgarten writes, BP has been steadily cutting costs while its quarterly earnings are up by more than 100 percent. (Perhaps BP should use their profits to invest in more safety equipment.)

Meanwhile, the same reporter writes that the chemicals meant to break up the oil spill may have toxic properties of their own. They have been known to cause respiratory problems, kidney and blood disorders, headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems. They have also been found to kill fish eggs.

“There is a chemical toxicity to the dispersant compound that in many ways is worse than oil,” said Richard Charter, a foremost expert on marine biology and oil spills who is a senior policy advisor for Marine Programs for Defenders of Wildlife and is chairman of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. “It's a trade off — you're damned if you do damned if you don't — of trying to minimize the damage coming to shore, but in so doing you may be more seriously damaging the ecosystem offshore.”

Read the full article here.

Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that Transocean, the company that BP is blaming for the disaster — “It wasn't our accident, but we are absolutely responsible for the oil, for cleaning it up, and that's what we intend to do,” BP Group CEO Tony Hayward told NBC's “TODAY” show. The rig that exploded on April 20 and then sank was run by another company, Transocean, he reminded viewers. That rig, he said, “was run by their people, their processes” — eliminated executive bonuses last year, as an incentive to prevent future accidents like the deaths of four company employees in 2009.

About the reporter

Jayati Vora

Jayati Vora

Jayati Vora is managing editor at The Investigative Fund. Previously, she was features editor for Al Jazeera America, and during her time there led numerous longform and investigative projects.

×

We bring hidden stories to light. Don’t miss the next one! Get our free newsletter now.

Subscribe