The unfortunate history of BP

by Ariana Pekary, producer
For those “in the know” about the history of BP, the disaster that took the lives of eleven workers two years ago was a terrible tragedy and not at all a surprise.  What is more tragic… those deaths?  The hundreds of millions of gallons of oil that spewed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico?  The economic depression that ensued in the Gulf region?….or that these events could have been prevented?
 
Jeanne Pascal had been the attorney from the Environmental Protection Agency tasked with overseeing BP compliance for more than a decade.  The day she turned on her TV to learn about the blast on April 20, 2010, she says her feelings shifted from shock to anger. “God, they just don’t learn.”
 
Pascal was less than two months into retirement that day, and almost as helpless as she had felt before retirement.  Her experience with the oil company is chronicled in a new book, a must read by Abrahm Lustgarten.  A reporter for ProPublica by day, he details the last fourty years of the company - about how it evolved to be the cost-cutting Goliath that exists today.
 
The book is Run to Failure: BP and the Making of The Deepwater Horizon Disaster.  It focuses on the culture of the company, its leadership, and unheeded pleas by its own employees.  Lustgarten also describes the pattern of paying its victims into silence.  Five years before the Gulf explosion, fifteen workers had been killed at a BP refinery in Texas City. Remember that?  (If not, then that’s by design.)
 
Just this week, details of their civil settlement have been released.  It includes $7.8 billion for economic loss and medical claims.  The Department of Justice is still conducting its criminal investigation. 
 
The environmental toll is yet to be fully tallied — but based on this video of mutated shrimp and fish, it really doesn’t look good.  So as Lustgarten writes today in the New York Times, there should be a criminal prosecution that holds BP individuals responsible for the 2010 oil spill.