Despite a clear public record to the contrary, BP is continuing its
public relations effort to define the blowout that has been spewing oil
into the Gulf for nearly three months as an isolated departure from a
record of safe and sound practices. The latest BP executive to parade
out the claim is Bob Dudley, BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization
director, who told PBS's Ray Suarez that other than the obvious belching
counterexample, "there is nowhere that I believe that there was a
systematic lack of emphasis and attention to safe and reliable
operations for our people and equipment."
Bob Dudley said in a PBS interview last week that claims against BP's
safety record are dated and tied to a single accident -- the Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15
people in 2005.
"There were a particularly large number of violations around that one
incident," said Dudley of the Texas City incident. "And as a result of
that accident, it shook the company up. The new management of the
company who put in place the -- almost the drive in the company about
safe and reliable operations -- became the way we started every meeting.
That was the way we sat down and planned every project. This was just
sort of getting itself deeply ingrained in the company."
The new "safe and reliable" leadership appears to refer BP's CEO Tony
Hayward, who took the reigns from long-standing CEO John Browne in May
But reports show BP has a long track record of egregious safety
violations that continued under Hayward's watch. An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity
found BP refineries produced 97 percent of all flagrant violations
reported in the refining industry over the past three years. Jim Morris
and MB Pell report:
BP received a total of 862 citations between June 2007 and
February 2010 for alleged violations at its refineries in Texas City and
Of those, 760 were classified as "egregious willful" and 69 were
classified as "willful." Thirty of the BP citations were deemed
"serious" and three were unclassified. Virtually all of the citations
were for alleged violations of OSHA's process safety management
standard, a sweeping rule governing everything from storage of flammable
liquids to emergency shutdown systems. BP accounted for 829 of the 851
willful violations among all refiners cited by OSHA during the period
analyzed by the Center.
Top OSHA officials told the Center in an interview that BP was cited for
more egregious willful violations than other refiners because it failed
to correct the types of problems that led to the 2005 Texas City
accident even after OSHA pointed them out. In Toledo, problems were
corrected in one part of the refinery but went unaddressed in another.
Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational
safety and health, said it was clear that BP "didn't go nearly far
enough" to correct deficiencies after the 2005 blast.
"The only thing you can conclude is that BP has a serious, systemic
safety problem in their company," Barab said.
In the wake of these citations, BP has been sued for problems ranging
from a giant oil spill in the Alaskan arctic tundra to dozens of safety
violations at an oil refinery in Ohio. Many of the violations happened
under Hayward's tenure.
In 2007, BP paid nearly $21 million to U.S. officials for multiple
safety violations and reckless behavior. Much of that sum was paid in
October of that year, when BP plead guilty to a misdemeanor violation of
the Clean Water Act; the company agreed to serve three years probation,
pay $4 million to the National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation to support research and activities on the North Slope, pay $4 million in restitution to the State of Alaska,
and pay a $12 million fine for spilling 200,000 gallons of
crude oil onto the Alaskan tundra in March 2006. The same month, BP was
also sued for $41,000 by the Minerals Management Service for
various safety violations and paid a $6,350 fine for failing to perform adequate
corrosion protection inspections at three underground gasoline storage
tanks. In June 2007, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
fined BP another $869,150 for leaking underground gasoline storage
CEO Tony Hayward came onboard in May 2007, but BP's safety record did
In 2009, OSHA fined BP a record $87 million for more than 700 safety violations at
its Texas City refinery - a long 4 years after the explosion Dudley
claims "shook the company up" in its approach to safety. OSHA determined
that BP was in non-compliance with the settlement agreement, finding 270 "notifications of failure to abate" and 439 new
In 2010, BP paid over $3 million
in fines for 42 willful safety violations at its Ohio refinery.
That's not a standard record, even in the oil industry. Analysis by
CPI shows that only one other refinery has received an "egregious
willful" citation between June 2007 and February 2010 -- and that was a
single citation, compared to BP's 760 during the same period.
Check out this infographic for technical details on some of the
differences between BP standards and industry standards. And watch
Dudley tout BP's safety record here: