Call it a tragic irony.
BP, now under federal scrutiny because of its role in the deadly Gulf of Mexico explosion and oil spill, is one of three finalists for a federal award honoring offshore oil companies for "outstanding safety and pollution prevention."
The winner of the award - chosen before the April 20 oil rig incident - was to be announced this coming Monday at a luncheon in Houston. But the U.S. Department of Interior this week postponed the awards ceremony, saying it needs to devote its resources to the ongoing situation resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and fire.
Eleven workers are presumed dead and an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking every day from the well. The cause of the explosion is still unknown.
A spokeswoman for the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service said she did not know which of the three finalists for the non-monetary award had been selected, nor did she say whether the current circumstances could influence the decision if BP was the winner. Winners of the award are kept secret until the ceremony, she said.
The floating Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded and eventually sank 130 miles southeast of New Orleans is owned by Transocean Ltd., a Swiss company, but was under contract with BP. The U.S. Coast Guard has termed BP the "responsible party." In U.S. Coast Guard parlance, "responsible party" typically means the entity that owns the vessel that caused the spill and is responsible for responding to an incident.
It does not imply criminal negligence.
According to a Department of Interior's website, BP Exploration & Production Inc. is one of three finalists for a Safety Award for Excellence, which honors companies for "outstanding safety and pollution prevention performance by the offshore oil and gas industry." The other nominees are ExxonMobil Corp. and Eni US Operating Co. BP specifically was nominated in the High OCS Activity Operator category, for companies engaged in operations on the outer continental shelf.
The Minerals Management Service was to name the winner of the award at the 2010 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston May 3-6. The annual award is an engraved plaque and a letter of citation, both signed by a Department of Interior official.
The awards program is intended to elevate awareness of safety and pollution and prevention, encourage voluntary compliance, educate the public and encourage excellence in safety and pollution prevention, the department says.
The program began in 1999, and is for a company's performance the previous year. British Petroleum has won the award once before, in 1992.