Olympics sponsor BP wins both a gold and a silver in environmental recklessness


As a lifelong resident of the Gulf, I’ve already expressed my outrage and dismay at learning that BP — yes, that BP, British Petroleum, spiller of roughly 5 million barrels of oil into one of the world’s natural treasures — has been named a “sustainability partner” of the 2012 Olympics in London, which finally kicked off this weekend. That selection made a mockery of the United Kingdom’s boast that this 30th incarnation of the Summer Games would be the “greenest” Olympics ever. With its commitment to promoting global warming in its worldwide quest for every drop of very non-renewable fossil fuels and its wanton disregard for the safety of both its workers and the environment, the only thing that BP works to sustain is its bogus image as a good corporate citizen.

Indeed, since the horrors of the Deepwater Horizon spill were unleashed on the Gulf in April 2010, BP’s “response” has worked in two directions: Cover up its lethal errors such as its disregard for safety warnings and its lack of a response plan, and divert attention with slick TV ads and other PR gimmicks. As regular readers know, the safety of seafood harvested from the Gulf remains very much in question, from diminished hauls of shrimp to fish with lesions to disconcerting test results. And so here’s how BP deals with that situation:

Eight Louisiana and Gulf Coast chefs—including John Folse and Galatoire’s executive chef Michael Sichel—are on their way to London. BP will send them to the 2012 Olympic Games host city to fill it with a “dash of spice.”

In addition to Folse and Sichel, participating chefs include Chris Poplin (Biloxi’s IP Casino Resort Spa), Calvin Coleman (Gulfport’s Naomi’s Catering), Chris Sherrill (from Orange Beach, Alabama’s Eat! and catering company Staycations), and Alec Naman (from Mobile’s Naman’s Catering).

These chefs may think they’re leveraging BP’s cash to promote their region on a grand stage. “We wanted to feature the Gulf Coast on an international stage,” BP director of Gulf coast media communications Ray Melick toldthe Montgomery Advertiser. “This was a good opportunity to bring these chefs’ seafood flavors to that stage, reminding everyone that the Gulf Coast is alive and well, and that the seafood is the most-tested and best-tasting anywhere.” That last bit describes the real message BP is hiring Gulf chefs to convey: Everything’s fine in the post-spill Gulf; the 2010 spill and any ill effects from it are dead and gone.

Forget the shrimp boil — this make my blood boil! And here’s the thing about BP: It’s not as if this icon of Big Oil made only one tragic and reckless error that led to a loss of life and the ruination of the Gulf. In fact, the company’s environmental record is lousy worldwide, and the Deepwater Horizon wasn’t even the only time the company poisoned the Gulf, the region it now tries to celebrate in London.

You know what happened in the Macondo oil field. But do you know what happened in Texas City, Tex., where B-P runs a giant refinery?

With the world focused on a BP rig explosion in the spring of 2010 that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, a massive release of pollutants from the company’s Texas City refinery went largely unnoticed.
The April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deep­water Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico came two weeks after the BP refinery began releasing pollutants into the air through a 300-foot flare that is designed to burn them away.

This is just stunning. Over a 40-day period, BP failed to correct the problem and spewed some 538,000 pounds of gases, including the cancer-causing chemical benzene, into the air of a working-class Gulf Coast community. What’s more, documents uncovered in the course of a lawsuit show BP knew the flare wasn’t working and ignored requests for money to fix it. And that’s not all:

The public became aware of the release only after it ended May 16, 2010.  Regulations required BP to give notice to state officials within 24 hours of the start of the gas release and within 2 weeks of its conclusion, but notice to the public was not required.
“We usually get warned – a phone call from Texas City or the sirens go off,” said Mary Brooks, 57, diagnosed with chemically induced asthma after the 2010 release.  “We never heard a siren.  There were no phone calls.”

You’ve got to say this, BP has Olympic-sized nerve to go anywhere near the term “sustainability,” let alone show its face at these supposedly “green” Games. The formula that we saw with Deepwater Horizon — cutting corners, showing zero regard for its employees or its neighbors, and then denying responsibility — is clearly not a one-time abnomaly but a corporate cancer infesting BP. With its actions in the Gulf oil spill, BP had already clinched the gold medal for environmental recklessness. But its toxic assault on the citizens of Texas City clearly deserves the silver.

To read my May 3 post about the outrage of BP’s selection as “sustainability partner” of the London Olympics, go to: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/sellout-of-the-century-uks-greenest-ever-olympic-games-embrace-bp-as-official-sponsor

To learn more about BP sending Gulf Coast chefs to the Olympics, please read: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/07/bp-sends-gulf-chefs-olympics-pr-jaunt

Check out the Houston Chronicle expose about BP’s toxic air assault on Texas City at: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2012/07/26/emails-bp-knew-of-flare-issues/

© 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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