As tar balls wash up on the white Pensacola beach sands, the Pensacola Independent News has uncovered an internal BP memo, obtained by attorney Brent Coon through discovery in his case against BP where he represents victims of the 2005 BP Texas Refinery explosion. The documents show that BP chose, knowingly and deliberately, to house workers in cheap, flimsy trailers next to the isomerization unit where the explosion occurred, rather than in safer, more solid and blast-resistent structures - solely because of their expense. And this same attitude has translated now to their response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Their mascots for arguing the case for trailers, favoring cost-cutting to life-saving? The 3 Little Pigs...
Mr. Coon originally used the "Three Little Pigs" story in court when speaking to the jury to illustrate his civil case against BP.
"We would ask the witnesses during depositions about the trailers. Whenever we used The Three Little Pigs' tale to describe the risks associated with the trailers versus brick and other structures, BP's attorneys objected."
Yet amazingly, BP used this same story themselves, as Coon found through discovery.
"Right there we found a presentation on the decision to buy the trailers that showed BP using The Three Pigs' fairy tale to describe the costs associated with the four options," Coon said. "I thought, You've got to be f_____g kidding me.' They even had drawings of three pigs on the report."
And what was their argument?
After analyzing the cost of four structures in descending order of blast-resistance and safety, in which the trailers were at the bottom, 100 times cheaper than the safer metal blast-resistant buildings, they merely needed a "cover story" to explain the obvious choice of the cheap buildings. So they estimated the cost of what would be predictably lost human lives - next to one of the most dangerous places in the facility - and callously compare "costs" in purely monetary terms.
"BP set the cost of claim for a lost life at $10 million," said Coon, "and determined it would be more cost effective to use the least expensive trailers and possibly lose a few workers than spend more money on the blast resistant structures."
In other words, they looked at the loss of a human life as an acceptable risk in the greater good of cutting costs. And this is the same attitude they show today, and showed leading up to the Deepwater explosion, in handling their responsibilities to the public, to human life, to the ecosystem that supports their workers, and to the earth itself. In leaving the cleanup to BP - especially leaving the determination of how much money will be spent and on what! - the Administration and the leadership of the Gulf Coast states are putting priceless treasure in the hands of a thief, whose only value system is his own private capital gain.
The Pensacola Independent News contacted BP for comment on these documents, and after some hounding, responded that the "culture" of BP has "fundamentally changed" and they have heavily invested in safety and raised their standards. They did not, interestingly, refer to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Coon's and other victims' lawsuits in the Texas Refinery explosion, which killed 15 and injured 170, resulted in $1.6 billion in settlements. Apparently their original calculations were off.
Now it looks they are still off in the Gulf. First, they decided NOT to buy a $500,000 acoustic valve trigger that would have shut down the well in case the blowout protector didn't work. Straw house didn't work so well there, either. And now they want to cut corners, for the same obviously failed financial reasons, in the cleanup operation.
Their plan is PR and cut. It's taking too long for Pres. Obama to figure this out. Maybe this memo will wake him up. He should listen to folks on the ground in the Gulf.
On May 24, Pensacola Councilman Larry Johnson grilled BP Civic Affairs Director Liz Castro about why her company didn't use Super Tankers to assist with oil recovery.
They had been successfully used off of Saudi Arabia in the '90's. Johnson's assessment was that BP felt they were too expensive, and didn't want to even entertain the idea. They'd rather throw "junk shots" and "top hats" at the spill, and leave containment to the booms. Good luck with that.
The Florida Congressional delegation has repeatedly asked BP to place $1 billion in an escrow account to reimburse states and counties for their cleanup costs. Instead, the states initially received $25 million in block grants. Later, an additional $70 million was forked over to help with advertising campaigns.
Why don't they try telling BP, and getting some legal clout here? Asking, begging, suggesting doesn't work. Where is the rule of law, now that we desperately need it? BP has no conscience. Now they need to pay the consequences - instead of our great-great grandchildren paying, in lives and loss of resources, for their unspeakable crimes.
It's my greatest hope that publicizing this memo will put on display BP's attitude towards human life - and everything else we hold dear - and convince all who have power (the President, the courts, the Governors of affected states) to exert extraordinary pressure on BP to not only pay for the "cleanup", not merely make "promises", but use every and all effective means, no matter how expensive, to clean up this catastrophic continuous oil disaster in the Gulf.