BP In Deep Water: A Bird’s-Eye View Of The Oil Spill

For the past four months, a grandiose ecological problem exists in the waters located in the Gulf of Mexico. On April 20, 2010, the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill took place in the Gulf of Mexico. British Petroleum (BP) has claimed responsibility for this environmental disaster, but has blamed Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton for their hand in building the rig and the well casing exploding and causing the oil to leak out into the Gulf at an unfathomable estimate of 100,000 barrels a day.

BP has a long history of committing transgressions against nature sanctuaries and paying dubious fines for their disregard of policies and regulations protecting these valuable commodities. Mother Jones Magazine named BP as one of the “ten worst corporations” in 2001 and 2005 based on its environmental and human rights records.

According to Sharon Beder, ‘bp: Beyond Petroleum?’ in Battling Big Business: Countering greenwash, infiltration and other forms of corporate bullying, “In 1991, BP was cited as the most polluting company in the US based on EPA toxic release data. In July 2000, BP paid a $10 million fine to the EPA for its management of its US refineries.”

According to PIRG research, “between January 1997 and March 1998, BP was responsible for 104 oil spills in the Arctic alone.”

As recently as October 2007, four BP energy traders in Houston were charged with manipulating prices of propane and as a result they settled with the US government for a record breaking $303 million.

How are they still in business?

Over the past 14 weeks, numerous US citizens have been asking the same question. This incident speaks to a larger issue with big corporations lying in bed with the US government. It’s been acknowledged as fact that Minerals Management Service (MMS), a branch of the Department of the Interior has turned a blind eye to the activities of these corporations (BP, Halliburton, Transocean, Ltd., Enron) since the start of the Bush administration.

MMS is the department of our government that directly handles offshore drilling. The Bush administration allowed for big corporations to play more of an expanded role in making regulations and laws that suited their endeavors.

It has become more evident to engaged citizens that this type of behavior has been going on previous to the Bush administration, but in a more pronounced fashion since his arrival into the oval office in 2000.

The onus also falls on President Obama for keeping these same people in place and continuing these measures after his election in 2008 when their performances warranted otherwise.

OIL SPILL TIMELINE:

• April 20, 2010: Gas, oil and concrete from the Deepwater Horizon explodes and it kills 11 platform workers along with injuring 17 others.

• May 2, 2010: President Obama visits the Gulf Coast the first out of four visits to the region. US officials close areas affected by the spill. BP starts drilling a relief well alongside the failed well, a process that may take two to three months to complete.

• May 11, 2010: US Congress calls the executives of Halliburton, Transocean Ltd., and BP to a hearing on Capitol Hill and they pointed fingers at each other while refusing to accept their share of the blame in this calamity.

• May 27, 2010: The first of four “Top Kill” procedures are attempted, but after a few days the execution goes awry and BP would have to try a different strategy and some of the oil workers start experiencing sickness.

• June 1, 2010: Contradicting the findings of many scientists, BP denies the existence of underwater oil plumes. Scientists claim they have found more than one oil plume and some experts estimated the oil leak could last until Christmas.

• June 16, 2010: BP agrees to set up a $20 billion fund for damage claims from the spill, suspends dividend payments to shareholders and says it will pay $100 million to workers idled by the six-month moratorium on deep-sea drilling.

• July 3, 2010: A supertanker converted into a “super skimmer” begins tests. The vessel can remove up to 500,000 barrels of oil and water from the sea surface a day. BP says that the cost of the spill had reached $3.12 billion.

• July 12-15, 2010: The new 40-ton containment device sealing cap successfully stops the massive oil leak. U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar issues a new moratorium until November 30.

• July 27, 2010:A towing vessel pushing the barge Captain Beauford collides with Louisiana-owned oil and natural gas rig springing another oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. BP board formally announces that Bob Dudley will replace Tony Hayward as BP CEO effective October 1.

• August 3, 2010: BP begins pump drilling mud 13.2 pounds per gallon through the top cap of the well.

• August 4, 2010: BP reported that the leak has stopped after pumping 2,300 barrels of drilling mud to fill the well.

• August 9, 2010: BP makes payment on its first $3 billion into the spill trust fund. It will pay $1.25 billion each quarter until it reaches $20 billion.


There is a difference in holding a corporation accountable and stripping them of their privilege of working on American soil to increase their profit margins. During President Obama’s most recent State of the Union speech, he called for more offshore drilling to begin later this year with many of his Republican colleagues in Congress applauding this decision. The expression of “Drill Baby Drill” by those on the right wing of the Republican Party is now slowly being drowned out by the oil swimming onto the respective shores of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and Florida.

Enough damage has been done and the top executives of BP, Halliburton, and Transocean Ltd. should be brought up on charges for what they’ve done to one of most valuable water regions in the US. Carol Browner, the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, said that this is the worst oil spill in the history of the United States surpassing the Exxon Valdez atrocity in 1989.

So the vexation and pugnacity of the people from the Gulf towards BP is rightly justified when their figureheads such as CEO Tony Hayward [pictured left] keep referring to the oil spill as “relatively tiny” and saying “I want my life back.” The corruption and lies must be ended immediately. In recent days, the government has taken BP to task and Tony Hayward has been removed from his duties and given an $18 million golden parachute for his troubles. Nothing says ‘punishment’ more than rewarding egregious behavior. The frustration and anger is palpable nationwide and it grows by the day.


Despite all of the fines incurred by BP from the US government they’re still allowed access in our most precious waters to drill for oil. One of the reasons for their ability to maintain a working relationship within the hierarchy of the US government is due to the campaign contributions they’ve made to prominent political figures. This fact is perhaps the most worrisome statistic to be revealed by this tragedy.

These types of incorrigible business practices have to become regulated before something else of this magnitude occurs on our soil from another foreign entity. I sincerely hope for the sake of my countrymen that we rally together to never allow this to happen again. Let this be an eye opening revelation for all citizens to move to action instead of remaining complacent. Our survival depends on it.

–Chris Williams

Further Reading…
BP oil spill: Final Gulf of Mexico well seal delayed [BBC]
BP oil spill: US scientist retracts assurances over success of cleanup [Guardian]
Oil Industry Plans Better Safety After Spill [Sky]
Gulf Of Mexico Response [BP]

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