Friday, February 27, 2015

193.8 - BP and Deepwater Horizon: still weaseling

BP and Deepwater Horizon: still weaseling

Speaking of oldies, here's a blast from the past: Who remembers the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill?

It happened almost 5 years ago now, on April 20, 2010, when a rig blew out on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform about 50 miles southeast of the Mississippi River delta. Eleven workers died in the explosion and fire.

It was the largest oil spill in history as oil gushed from the broken wellhead into the Gulf of Mexico. It wasn't until July 15, 86 days later and after a series of failures, that the well was successfully capped.

Oil giant BP was the principal developer of the oil field where the blowout occurred and had overall responsibility for the project.

In the months after the blowout, BP first tried to pawn off blame onto two other companies: TransOcean, which operated the platform, and Halliburton. When that didn't fly, BP began arguing, stalling, appealing, and nitpicking about just how much oil was spilled, just how bad the damage was, and anything else they could think of.

Now, nearly five years later, BP is still trying to weasel out of as much responsibility as possible.

On Monday, February 23, the transnational corporation filed an appeal against a federal judge’s finding about the size of the spill, because of course the smaller the spill, the smaller the fine that could be levied under the federal Clean Water Act. In addition, the fine is calculated on so many dollars per barrel and the company is contesting that figure, as well.

In January, US District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans had ruled that, based on best judgment, 3.19 million barrels of oil had spilled into the Gulf as a result of the disaster. BP insists the figure is only - and I use the word "only" solely in the sense of "by comparison, less" - 2.45 million barrels. By way of contrast, the federal government asserted that 4.19 million barrels were spewed into the waters of the Gulf.

If Judge Berbier's rulings are upheld, BP would be facing a fine of $13.7 billion. That's on top of the $42 billion BP has already laid out as a result of the blowout, including for cleanup, fines, and compensation for victims.

But I wouldn't weep for BP: It's gross profit in 2013, the last year for which I could find an annual total, was over $53 billion on total revenue of nearly $380B.

And if you still feel somehow sorry for BP, consider that about 810,000 barrels of oil were collected during the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. That's over 2-1/2 times the total amount spilled in what had been the worst-ever spill in US waters and over 3 times the total amount spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989.

And even by BP's own self-serving calculations, that 810,000 barrels recovered means that over 1.6 million barrels of oil were spewed into the Gulf of Mexico and not recovered with long-term environmental and health effects that are still being discovered.

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