Is BP Playing Games with Cleanup Contractors…And Cleanup Efforts?


It can seem random, but BP’s tactic of “hiring a few while firing the many” was predicted by Alaskan victims of the Exxon Valdez spill. They warned early on that a noted Big Oil strategy was to pay a few people big money – both in terms of settlements and work contracts – to drive a wedge through communities and keep everyone silent in hopes of being one of the “lottery winners.”

As BP cuts and runs from the Gulf, shutting down cleanup efforts across the impacted areas, we keep hearing of seemingly conflicting actions. One boat will be hired for some work while others are not, and even a beach-cleaning company is fired inexplicably while another mysteriously appears on the same beach. Of course, those working are warned not to speak to the press. The goal is silence and intimidation.

WEAR-TV (Pensacola, Mobile, Fort Walton Beach) has an interesting report that illustrates how this strategy might work. The TV segment tells of 200 local contract workers who showed up to clean oil from a beach only to be fired. BP dismissed the workers’ company. Why? Well, nobody’s really sure. It’s certainly not for lack of oil. According to former BP contractor Tom Wolford: “In the last four days alone I’ve uncovered 10,338 pounds of oil.”

Meanwhile, a mystery cleanup crew is working on the same Perdido Key beach. So Tom Wolford’s company is dismissed and then, just like that, another cleanup company appears on the beach and begins working. And when a reporter asks a handful of the new crew members what company they work for…SILENCE.

See what hardball BP strategy looks like in real time:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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