The other side of the BP story in the Gulf


A lot of people are talking about a story that aired Sunday night on the popular CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” about BP and the 2010 Gulf oil spill. In essence, the story was an opportunity for executives from the oil giant to repeat the same old whine that I’ve written about here recently — that they never expected so many billions of dollars in claims from residents and business owners who were harmed by the impact of their reckless 5-million gallon spill, and thus people are somehow taking advantage of the multi-billion-dollar profitable company. The only difference Sunday was that this time they got millions of viewers to pay attention.

Now here’s another story, which also came out on Sunday, which gives a much more accurate picture. Here’s an excerpt:

These days, he tends to travel to Grand Isle State Park and Elmer’s Island. The oil no longer covers those places, as it once did, but despite what you may have heard about the cleanup being complete, fresh tarballs keep reappearing. Especially after storms, Henderson’s liable to find them by the thousands.

“Every time I go down to these areas, I find lots of oil,” Henderson told Salon. And it’s not just the tarballs, either. As summer approaches, he describes, with horrified fascination, how liquid oil still buried in the marshy soil oozes up to the surface. Just last week, he came across a dead dolphin.

That’s the story, of non-stop environmental degradation, that America still needs to hear — especially after three years or so of bombardment from BP’s feel-good TV ad campaigns. It certainly places BP’s non-stop complaining and moaning in a broader context. Here’s some more of the Salon article:

When Jonathan Henderson’s done taking photos of oil and tarballs, he sometimes scoops up the refuse and collects its in jars. Those on the coast are worried about the potential health risks posed to cleanup workers, not to mention the tourists walking barefoot on the beach who might not be aware, for example, that the tarballs have been found to contain the deadly Vibrio bacteria. Henderson, who sometimes sees children playing with the tar, recently sent some of his samples to a lab to be tested for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHS) — a cancer-causing byproduct of burning oil. He’s still waiting on the results.

“If I had more resources, I would spend a lot more time finding impacts,” Henderson said. “I would go into more remote areas,” on Louisiana’s coastline, the ones only accessible by boat, “and I would find oil, and send it to a lab, and prove that it was BP’s. And I would go to areas that had been taken out of response, and find oil, and prove that it’s still BP’s oil impacting the area.”

The claim that BP made on national TV Sunday night — that it’s losing billions of dollars on the settlement it reached last year with residents and small businesses who were harmed by the spill — has been debunked and shot down by the courts again and again and again. 

Never forget that the terms of this settlement are the ones that BP’s own lawyers helped draw up and then publicly agreed to, even defending the fairness of the terms before a federal judge. The claims that the company are now being asked to pay are exactly the type of claims that were envisioned in the BP-packed settlement. And the reason that the dollar figures are so high is a simple one: BP’s neligence caused massive environmental harm in the Gulf, and now it’s paying the piper.

For a change of pace, I’m going to give the last word to a fellow New Orleans blogger who had the same reaction I did — and who posted some of the many photos of BP tar balls that have washed ashore on Florida’s Gulf beaches in recent days. Wrote Tom Young of the Legal Examiner:

Last night, the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes ran a story on BP in which the company attempted to portray itself as a victim of the people of the Gulf of Mexico. Let these photos, from last Friday (4 years and 12 days since the Deepwater Horizon disaster), remind BP and its sympathizers that the company is no victim. It is indeed the villain and will remain so until full restitution is made for destroying our environment and economy.

Read more about the “60 Minutes” broadcast:

Check out the report about lingering environmental problems in the Gulf:

Here’s Tom Young of the Legal Examiner on the BP spill:

 © Smith Stag, LLC 2014 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • After four years of this big mess BP made we are so far in debit it’s not funny. After they keep saying gone make it right. I not scare to tell the world I’m in the hole so far can’t get out. That BP Drill so deep for us fishermen to fall in to. Since BP DESTROYER kill our living with their poison they spray. Just wish our GOVS and PEOPLE in White opening there eyes to see what BP HAD DONE and still doing.

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