BP – Establishing a Pattern of Failure

via @BPGlobalPR

As more details emerge on the size and scope of the spill in the Gulf, people are looking into BP’s pattern of neglect for the sake of profit.

We noted in a previous post how much BP has reportedly been fined since 1995 for violations.

Over the weekend, the Knoxville News Sentinel published a piece that details just how widespread BP’s neglect was, and still is.

Here’s a taste from the article:

Because of its string of accidents before the recent blowout in the Gulf, BP already faced a possible ban on its federal contracting and on new U.S. drilling leases, several senior former Environmental Protection Agency debarment officials told ProPublica. That inquiry has taken on new significance in light of the Gulf accident. One key question the EPA will consider is whether the company’s leadership can be trusted and whether BP’s culture can change.

The reports detailing BP’s Alaska investigations – conducted by outside lawyers and an internal BP committee in 2001, 2004 and 2007 – were provided to ProPublica by a person close to BP who believes the company has not yet done enough to eradicate its shortcomings.

A 2001 report noted that BP had neglected key equipment needed for emergency shutdown, including safety shutoff valves and gas and fire detectors similar to those that could have helped prevent the fire and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf.

A 2004 inquiry found a pattern of intimidating workers who raised safety or environmental concerns. It said managers were shaving maintenance costs with the practice of “run to failure,” under which aging equipment was used as long as possible. Accidents resulted, including the 200,000-gallon Prudhoe Bay pipeline spill in 2006, the largest-ever spill on Alaska’s North Slope.

During the same period, similar problems surfaced at BP facilities in California and Texas.

That’s just the beginning folks, go read the whole thing.

In the wake of these revelations, increased pressure from the US Coast Guard, and a looming visit from President Obama, BP has finally deployed some new equipment to measure the spill.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we have to expect more from business and government. We have to stop acting like we’re held captive to the needs of business at the expense of ours. There is a long-standing pattern at the Federal and State levels of deregulation, lack of regulation, and de-funding regulatory agencies to allow these bad actors to do whatever they want, to ensure maximum profitability. The whole system is out of whack.

There is a lot of anger surrounding this event, and that’s not surprising, but we should also remember that the events that led up to this event started well before the blowout preventer failed over 50 days ago. It started when we gave in to business’s demand for profit over safety.

Every business, from the mom and pop store to billion dollar global outfits have to weigh risk v. reward. BP made a calculated risk that they could, time and time again, skimp on safety and reap the rewards of higher profits. This time, it bit them, and hard.

If we want to decrease the possibility of something like this happening again, we have to give our regulators more teeth, and demand more transparency in their oversight.

BP is responsible for the safety shortcuts that led to this disaster. But we share some responsibility for allowing our elected representatives to sell us a series of disastrous policies that diminished regulation and hindered what little oversight we have left.

It happened with Enron in the wake of the repeal of Glass-Stegal. It happened in the financial sector, which led to the decline we’ve been going through for two years. Now it’s happening with BP.

The question we need to be asking ourselves now is where will it happen next?

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