Now, BP claims it wants to clean up Gulf — but not until it spends more on PR


You’ve got to say this about British Petroleum — they have some nerve. For more than two years, we’ve been reporting about all the lingering fallout from the Deepwater Horizon disaster — the sick and deformed seafood, the dead zones and the depleted oyster beds, the oiled marshlands and the dying dolphins, and the clean-up workers with crippling health issues. But now, after Hurricane Isaac whipped up some of the estimated 1 million barrels of spilled oil that’s still out there in the Gulf, BP says it’s seen the light.

Now, 29 months later, BP insists that it’s going to clean up the Gulf, and that it’s serious this time:

“What we have seen to date in the form of buried tar mats and tar balls exposed by Isaac have been identified in the isolated areas that we worked” before the storm, said Mike Utsler, President of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, speaking at a news conference at a New Orleans hotel. “It’s not unexpected to see this material where it’s been exposed.”

Seeing that oil on the beaches has been “not unexpected” by countless BP cleanup workers who have stated they were not allowed to clean up oil and instead told to cover it up. They were even threatened with being fired if they advised beach-goers of the danger in playing in the oiled Gulf water or on oiled Gulf beaches. Numerous eye witnesses saw BP dumping sand on the beaches it oiled.

Utsler said ecological concerns forced BP to limit cleanup to beach surfaces. It now proposes a “deep cleaning,” five feet deep.

Cathy Norman, overseer of a land trust that owns Fourchon Beach, a stretch heavily oiled, said she was concerned about any BP plan that would involve big equipment tilling sand, a technique BP has used in other places. “It’s basically land farming, it spreads things around, it doesn’t remove” the oil, she said. It also “disrupts the entire crust of the beach” and could lead to additional erosion.

This would hardly be the first time that BP invested in a clean-up plan that did more harm to the Gulf than good. After all, its initial response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 was to spray millions of gallons of a highly toxic dispersant to simply make the oil disappear, even as evidence mounts that Corexit harmed both seafood and Gulf residents. That’s all BP really cares about — making the situation, and itself, look better, and not fixing the underlying problem.

BP continues to put more effort into cleaning its image than cleaning the Gulf:

After hiring tens of thousands of workers and boats to scour Louisiana’s coast and waters for oil in 2010, BP is also waging a public relations blitz in Gulf Coast states. It has purchased radio and television commercials touting Gulf beaches and restaurants as “open for business.” In court filings, it claims that the Gulf’s ecosystem is seeing a “robust recovery” from the spill.

“We’ve made tremendous progress but we’re still working hard and we’re committed to that progress,” Ulster said on Tuesday.

In a full-page ad in the New York Times on Monday, BP restated its commitment to the Gulf. The ad said the company has spent more than $23 billion on the clean-up effort and “Many areas are reporting their best tourism seasons in years.”

Of course, if you’ve been following developments with BP over the last couple of weeks, you know that BP’s claims of a robust recovery along the Gulf Coast have been completely blown apart. The federal government, the states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi and thousands of Gulf Coast residents and small business owners — some of them represented by my law firm SmithStag LLC — have filed court papers in the last two weeks noting that the health of both the residents and the environment along the Gulf Coast is nowhere near back to normal.

 In documents supporting our objections to the proposed $8.7 billion settlement between BP and the region’s affected residents and business owners,  research scientist Dr. Edwin Cake offered his testimony that the blue crab, oyster, and shrimp fisheries in the central Gulf are severely depressed and are not recovering to anywhere near the pre-April 2010 population levels and catches, contrary to BP claims in the news media.  Likewise, our medical expert, Dr. Michael Robichaux, said (here and here) he’s treated more than 150 patients suffering headaches, rashes, breathing difficulties after their exposure to BP’s spilled oil, and that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

BP has already wasted some of its billions in oil profits on its slick PR push — that has fooled no one. It’s time for them to put their money where the real problems are.

To read more about the BP “cleanup” plan that does more hard than good, please go to:

Here is more information about BP’s newest PR spin campaign:

Check out my post from earlier this week on our objection to BP’s proposed $8.7 billion deal at:

You can read Dr. Edwin Cake’s declaration about ongoing seafood problems in the Gulf at:

You can read the health impact reports from Michael Robichaux at and

 © Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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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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