BP Safety Record Won’t Help In Court of Public Opinion


BP May Have Tough Time in Court of Public Opinion

BP holds the record for the largest fine ever levied by the  U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  It also holds second place as well.  BP holds an all-time record fine from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

Deepwater Horizon seconds before sinking

The tragic explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 resulted in the death of 11 people and it’s too soon to determine the total environmental and economic impact, both of which are certain to be extensive.  It’s probably too soon to be pointing fingers.  Drilling for and recovering oil and natural gas is a dangerous business.  On land, it’s dangerous but offshore, it’s one of the most dangerous jobs  in the world.  Accidents happen all the time but the industry as a whole tries extremely hard to reduce the risks to workers and also to the sites themselves.  Drilling at depths of water thousands of feet below the surface is frought with complications and challenges.  For that reason, it is far too soon to determine whether there was anything that BP could have done to prevent the incident from happening.    But, the accusations and investigations have begun even though the solution to the blowout problem has yet to be resolved. 

 A BP contract worker has made allegations recently of wrong doing by the UK oil giant and the United States Congress is sure to conduct investigations even though it’s probably too soon for anyone to draw conclusions.  But, make no mistake about it, BP is in big trouble.  At least one lawyer is already building a case by saying that BP is no stranger to disasters.  Newspapers have been reporting on BP’s long history of legal and ethical violations, but most newspapers don’t have the space to adequately address them all.  Below you will find a few from the past decade.  I”m not sure how this record fairs against that of other companies who struggle in the dangerous and tricky world of oil and gas exploration.  Transocean is the company from whom BP was leasing the rig and generally they, as the contractor,  would most likely be doing the actual work.  Nevertheless,  BP is the company that the media and public  knows and such a list of past allegations, fines and admitted transgressions will not help the case of BP in the court of public opinion.  I’m not sure if the public relations department will be able to handle it all. 

Jan 2010-BP announces $400 million upgrade of 60 yr-old equipment at refinery in Oregon, OH

On March 8, 2010  OSHA cited BP North American, Inc. for 42 violations at the BP-Husky refinery in Oregon, Ohio.  Among those allegations were 20 that the agency determined were serious safety concerns that put workers at risk of death or injury.  The fines proposed totaled over $3 million.  The findings stem from an investigation relating to a 2006 inspection of the refinery near Toledo and subsequent settlement with BP.  While BP was found to have complied with the terms of the settlement, an inspection in 2009 found new violations that were no addressed in the intial settlement.  In January 2010, BP announced $400 million in upgrades for 60-year-old equipment at the Oregon, Ohio refinery. 

BP Texas City refinery exploded in 2005 killing 15 and injuring 170

On October 30, 2009 OSHA proposed that BP be subject to the largest fine the the agency’s history.   The fine over over $87 million smashed the old record of $21 million.  That fine was also levied against BP following a 2005 explosion at a Texas City, Texas refinery.  The additional fine came after a subsequent follow-up investigation into the 2005 explosion of the company’s Texas City, Texas refinery that killed 15 and injured 170.  In the press release announcing the fines, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said in part, “When BP signed the OSHA settlement from the March 2005 explosion, it agreed to take comprehensive action to protect employees. Instead of living up to that commitment, BP has allowed hundreds of potential hazards to continue unabated.”  In January 2008, an investigation was begun looking into the third employee fatality at the BP Texas City facility in the time-frame following the 2005 explosion.  A report in 2007 suggested the budget cuts at BP in 1999 and 2004 resulted in safety and mainenance deficiencies at the plant that led directly to the tragic set of events. Later in 2005, another explosion rocked the same refinery.    

Former BP CEO Lord John Browne

The Houston Chronicle reported in 2007 that BP CEO John Browne got a raise in the year of the Texas City explosion and a bonus following allegations of an oil spill in Alaska resulting from corroded pipes and poor maintenance.   The 2007 Chronicle story relates to the resignation of Browne as CEO of BP after he admitted having a relationship with  a man.  Browne cited a desire to avoid an “unnecessary embarrassment and distraction” to the company.  

Edna and Wilf Human

In 2008, BP in the United Kingdom was found liable for damages in the death of a former worker.  The family of Wilf Human was scheduled to receive 47,000 British pounds as the inital part of the settlement with the rest to be determined at the end of that year.  Human worked at BP’s  Isle of Grain refinery and the proceedings found BP liable for the mesothelioma that killed the 22 year veteran of the plant.  The cause was found to be exposure to asbestos. 

BP Alaska 4800 barrel spill from corroded pipe

In October 2007, BP agreed to pay fines of $60 million imposed by EPA for violations stemming from the 2005 Texas City explosion as well as for environmental violations in Alaska.  According to the EPA, the fines totalling $50 million represent the largest criminal fine ever imposed on a corporation for violating the Clean Air Act.  An additional $12 million fine was slapped on the corporation for violating the Clean Water Act.  BP was accused of spilling 200,000 gallons (4800 barrels) of crude oil in 2006 onto the Alaska tundra and also on a frozen lake.  BP pled guilty to a felony charge of violating the Clean Air Act at the Texas City refinery and was given 3 year’s probation.  Probation is usually in lieu of jail time.  How you can put a company in jail is beyond me.  I suppose the CEO would be the one heading to the Big House if they violate the probation terms.  

Shell along with BP received most recent HSE Notices of Improvement relating to North Sea operations.

In 2007, the Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued 14 improvement notices to BP for issues at the company’s North Sea operations that potentially could put workers’ safety at risk.  Seven of the notices related to a single compnay facility.  The oil company was ordered to make necessary repairs and changes to make certain that it complied with the law.  Union officials said the problems were “very very serious” and came just 18 months following a fire on a BP floating production platform that required the evacuation of all non-essential personnel.  The HSE said it was taking the action “because of the extent of backlogs in preventative and breakdown maintenance of plant, structures and fabric of the installation” and that “It doesn’t appear as though BP is operating the installation in a way that would ensure safety risks have been controlled as low as is reasonably practicable, which is what the law requires.”  Two weeks ago, BP and Shell received notices of improvement from HSE related to their North Sea operations. 

Alaska is an extremely difficult and dangerous place for oil operations

In late 2002, a worker was killed and two injured in an accident at BP Exploration Alaska’s North Slope.  The incident occured as workers repaired a pipeline that, for unknown reasons, remained pressurized while the maintenance work took place.  Just a few months before, another incident relating to pressure build up at a natural gas well resulted in the injury of another worker.  The two incidents were unrelated and in different parts of the field.  The natural gas incident occured following a rupture below ground.  To be fair, these two incidents were probably more related to the inherent dangers associated with working in the oil patch.  But, in 2006 a report referred to the “history of substandard environmental performance” by BP in Alaska. 

SPC Ohio Valley out of the Severe Risk for Today

SPC Gusty winds possible with late night storms

Weather Bottom Line:  Yesterday I related how the SPC had us in a slight risk for severe weather for Tuesday through Wednesday morning and how they mentioned the afternoon but not the overnight.  I had noted that because it was the GFS that produced far more interesting data for late Tuesday night than it did for Tuesday afternoon.  The NAM was stronger for the afternoon but the numbers were not all that impressive.  Well, the SPC severe outlook for May 11, 2010 has shifted somewhat.  The area of the slight risk is in the plains with the Ohio Valley falling under the dreaded “see text” section.  They suggest a small risk below “slight” parameters for our area regarding strong winds and hail.  I suspect that the scenario that they are looking at is a cold frontal boundary being slowed somewhat as a shortwave moves into the Central Rockies.  Hence, any storms that run up the front into our area will be getting here late and should be on the dying side.  So, the rougher weather is out to our west and we get stuck with the leftovers.   Either way, hold on to your hats; it’s going to be windy today. 

SPC Thu AM to Fri AM next best chance for Severe Weather in Ohio Valley

I also mentioned yesterday that this would be a challenging week and that remains the case.  The trouble is that the big parent storm out west is slow to come out and it will be tossing out pieces of energy on an intermittent basis. It’s extremely difficult to say with much certainty what the timing or course of those impulses.  At this point, the SPC feels as if the Thu to Fri timeframe will be our next best chance for severe conditions.  Until then, we will be decidedly warmer and more humid than recent days as the warm front came through Tuesday morning bringing the expected light showers.  The Tuesday night cold front will get close but will retreat relatively rapidly.  Aside from the severe risk in somewhat of a flux, there should be a risk for scattered showers and t’storms each afternoon through Friday.

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One Response

  1. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last week.
    thanks & regards – >

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