A video, courtesy of the National Resources Defense Council, cataloging several of BP CEO's Tony Hayward's most egregious gaffes and falsehoods regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill:
In the first hours after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20th, British Petroleum officials claimed there was no oil leaking from the broken well head, and that the oil seen in the water was a small, residual slick that had leaked from the rig itself as it was destroyed.
Days later, BP announced that there were 1,000 barrels of oil leaking from the well per day. BP continued to publicly cite that estimate for several days, even as the U.S. Coast Guard, using data given to it by BP, estimated that at least five times the amount BP claimed -- 5,000 barrels -- must have been leaking from the well daily.
When journalists and independent scientists looking to verify the flow rate asked BP for video of the leaking well, BP refused, repeatedly, until May 13th, when it finally released a 30 second video. Just one day later, scientists who had analyzed the brief video came to a grim conclusion: the Deepwater Horizon oil well might actually be leaking anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil daily.
On June 3rd, BP partially capped the spewing well with a containment dome to capture a percentage of the oil flow and send it to a tanker on the surface. On June 5th, with the dome's collection only at partial capacity, and oil still visibly flowing all around the loosely fitted cap, BP claimed to capture 6,000 barrels in 24 hours. On June 6th, with the containment device still not fully operational, BP claimed to capture 10,000 barrels of oil in a single day.
10,000 barrels in one day. From the oil well that BP had once insisted was only leaking 5,000 barrels per day.
On Monday, June 7th, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
that oil flow estimates from BP would no longer be
And on Thursday June 10th, the U.S. Department of the Interior released its own report estimating that between April 20th and June 3rd, the Deepwater Horizon well spilled anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day -- as much as nine times the amount of oil leaked during the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska.
BP has also repeatedly denied the existence of huge underwater plumes of oil beneath the surface of the ocean, despite the fact that scientists from several different universities and organizations have reported the plumes' presence.
And on Tuesday June 8th, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that large plumes of underwater oil are present in the Gulf.
Yet, Thursday morning on the Today Show, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttle, when asked by host Meredith Viera about the government report, said, "We haven’t found any large concentrations of oil under the sea. To my knowledge, no one has."
BP's repeated, ongoing public denial of strong scientific evidence regarding the unprecedented scope of this environmental disaster is blatantly dishonest, and blatantly self-serving. Federal law authorizes the EPA to fine BP between $1,000 and $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, giving BP a compelling financial incentive to confuse the record on just how much oil has leaked.
So why hasn't anyone in government stepped forward to give BP officials an equally compelling incentive to tell the truth about how much oil is leaking?
It has become obvious, over the past several weeks, that BP's management is not sufficiently moved by nightmarish visions of a dying Gulf ecosystem, or sufficiently inspired by the notion of saving the livelihoods of fishermen and restaurant and hotel owners across the Gulf coast, to be truthful to the the public or the government about the size of the spill.
Therefore I conclude that BP executives might require motivation of a different kind -- the threat of jail time.
Which is why, on Friday, I asked White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Director Carol Browner the following question during a White House Live Facebook chat about the oil spill:
In the wake of BP's dishonesty about the size of the spill, will you encourage Congress to pass legislation making it a felony crime for a corporate representative to deliberately mislead the gov't about the scope of an environmental disaster in ways that may interfere with the cleanup?
Ms. Browner answered that she thought existing laws might be sufficient, adding, "You can't mislead the government."
But, though the U.S. Justice Department has already launched a criminal investigation of BP to determine whether the corporation violated the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Oil Pollution Act in its negligent handling of the Deepwater Horizon rig before the spill, I see no one in our government moving swiftly and decisively to stop BP's lies now.
And that is a serious problem. The world's biggest oil companies are the only organizations who currently possess the technology necessary to combat an oil spill in deep waters. The federal government does not have an army of deep water robot submarines and deep water drilling rigs at the ready; without BP's equipment and expertise, the government simply does not currently have the capacity to contain this spill.
So, like it or not, we the American people are wedded to BP in an unholy marriage of convenience until the ongoing crisis of the continuously leaking well can be solved.
And if we must rely on BP, it is in our interest to do our very best to force them to be more reliable. If BP's officials continue to lie so egregiously, we must impose swift consequences.
H/T to Jeff Smith at Gaper's Block for some of the news links above.