Sometimes I receive a news article so relevant and informative it speaks to every issue I had planned to write about in my own blog. This morning my email inbox included this incredible article from the Anchorage Daily News (thanks to Kelly Walters, producer of the Shannyn Moore Show) about the astonishing history of BP and the current Gulf of Mexico oil explosion, written by Richard Mauer with contributions from Anna M. Tinsley of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. This is a must-read for anyone attempting to understand the magnitude of the disaster, the factors that made it develop, and the "profit at any cost" out-of-control corporate practices that allowed it to occur. I am posting it in its entirety:
BP has a history of safety failures
PROFIT: Corporate culture called putting earnings over maintenance, environment.
By RICHARD MAUER
Oil giant BP is facing unprecedented scrutiny as a result of the explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but it's hardly the first time the company has found itself in an unwelcome spotlight. Critics, judges and members of Congress have accused it time and again of putting profits ahead of safety in Alaska and Texas.
Over the past two decades, BP subsidiaries have been convicted three times of environmental crimes, including two felonies. It remains on probation in Alaska and Texas.
The causes of the disastrous blowout and gas explosion on BP's leased Deepwater Horizon rig -- and what role the company might have played in creating them -- are a long way from being determined. In a story Friday, The New Orleans Times-Picayune quoted witnesses and a contractor as saying that drilling mud, the first line of defense against a blowout, was removed from the well before a cement seal was put in place, setting the stage for the disaster and violating best drilling practices. It's unclear who ordered the mud pumped out or why.
Eleven workers from the platform are missing and presumed dead, and oil continues to flow unabated from a severed underwater line following the failure of the new well's blowout prevention system.
While BP is accepting responsibility for the spill, it denies it's responsible for a systematic pattern of safety and environmental failures.
"We are a responsible and professional company," said BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart. "We work to high standards. Safety is our highest priority."
Much of BP's recent history in America has been written in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, the nation's largest oil field. BP runs the field and several smaller ones nearby, and owns the largest share of its production. The company's exploration history in the state goes back two decades before the completion of the trans-Alaska pipeline in 1977, when it was still known as British Petroleum. BP also owns the largest share of the 800-mile pipeline to Valdez, Alaska, and its management consortium, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.
But BP's worst recent disaster took place in Texas in 2005, when an explosion at its refinery in Texas City near Galveston killed 15 workers, injured 180 people and forced thousands of nearby residents to remain sheltered in their homes. BP, workers and their families and the affected communities are still dealing with fallout from the explosion.
LEAKS, SPIES, RETRIBUTION
In Alaska, BP first brought unwelcome attention on itself 20 years ago in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Exxon was a partner of BP in the Prudhoe Bay oil field and shared in the ownership of the trans-Alaska pipeline system, which then was headed by a BP official.
After a series of leaked documents to the media and Congress showing how Alyeska failed to live up to its promises to contain spills -- the final straw was a critical documentary that aired on British TV -- Alyeska's president, longtime BP executive James Hermiller, who was on loan to the company, ordered an undercover operation to track down the leaker.
Their chief suspect was Chuck Hamel, a former congressional aide and oil broker in Alexandria, Va., who became a conduit between industry whistleblowers and reporters.
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