How culturally tone-deaf does BP remain? Well, company CEO Robert Dudley finally apologized for the largest man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history – but not to the victims.
Instead, he “…issued an industry-wide apology for the worst offshore spill in U.S. history at a high-profile energy conference [in Houston] on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. The article quotes Mr. Dudley, an American, as explaining that “…this is the first chance I have had to address such a large gathering of industry colleagues and the first thing I want to say is that I am sorry for what happened last year.”
Granted, it’s not up there with the “I want my life back” attitude of former BP CEO Tony Hayward, but it does illustrate that the oil giant’s attention remains hyperfocused on the industry and mammoth profits, not on who its top board member once dismissively called the “little people” of the Gulf or on how to “Make it Right.” And if you listen carefully, BP is also offering both hints and assertions about its future legal battles with U.S. authorities.
For example, Mr. Dudley chose to say in his prepared speech – no doubt, carefully vetted – that BP is not signing contracts with drillers whose rigs don’t meet BP standards. Reading between the lines that translates to: The spill was the rig company’s fault. That, of course, would be Transocean. That part of Dudley’s speech brought back memories of the congressional hearing where executives from the Big Three responsible companies (BP, Halliburton and Transocean) sat there and pointed fingers of blame at each other.
Dudley also worked into his address the first flat-out denial of gross negligence, which would double many fines the company faces. Reuters says Mr. Dudley “…told reporters afterward that BP was not in discussions with the U.S. Justice Department on whether BP was grossly negligent with Macondo, which could mean a fine of $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled…. ‘We do not believe BP is grossly negligent,’ Dudley said.”
With all due respect, Mr. Dudley, there are a few “little people” down here on the Gulf Coast who would disagree with your assessment.
Here’s the Reuters report: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/08/ceraweek-bp-idUSN0819661620110308
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I have just returned from Houma. I met people who are running out of what they call “pre-BP” shrimp. Freezers were filled in the spring of 2010. Everyone in the bayou’s is afraid for their future, a community filled with anxiety and grief over what they fear is a tainted fish industry. It made us all think twice when ordering from any restaurant in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. When we first arrived we gouged on seafood until we starting talking to locals. Suddenly there was an oily taste in everything. People are suspicious of FDA and USFW. Is American policy turning its back on Louisiana fisher people? Is it, as your President said, “Business as usual? Or worse yet, is America in denial?