Just days after BP published their recalcitrant 2010 Sustainability Report, saying how eager they were to win back the public’s trust; they denied access to their annual meeting to five Gulf Coast residents who traveled all the way to London to be there. The shareholders, who represented various fisherman’s associations had been given proxies to participate to participate, but were not allowed to enter. Accompanying the residents was Antonia Juhasz, author of the book, Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill, who, as a shareholder, was allowed in and made her way to the podium where she read a statement, amid boos, by Keith Jones, of Baton Rouge, LA, whose son Gordon died in the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. According to the statement,
“…why was Gordon taken from those who loved him so? This was no act of God. This was not a blowout that was inevitable. No, BP, Transocean and Halliburton could have prevented this blowout. They could have prevented the blowout and still harvested the riches that lay below. They could have carefully and safely completed this well. But to complete the well safely would have taken a little more time and a little more money, and you were just too greedy to wait.”
There was also criticism over the handling of claims, much of which was leveled at government appointed attorney Kenneth Feinberg who also handled claims in the wake of 9-11. According to Juhasz:
“We had no illusion that BP was unaware of who we were or why we were there. We wanted them to know. In countless interviews that week, the Gulf Coast residents made their concerns well known to BP and the public: the oysters are not back, the shrimp are not back, their people are sick from oil and dispersant, they have no idea when life will get back to normal, and neither BP nor the federal government’s Kenneth Feinberg have paid the necessary claims on which the Gulf Coast community is supposed to live. In fact, of the hundreds of thousands of claims filed by Gulf residents who have lost income as a result of the disaster, less than 40% have even been processed, much less paid out.”
In related news, Greenpeace recently received some 30,000 documents related to the Gulf oil spill under the Freedom of Information Act. These messages reveal that the official claim that 75% of the oil was gone has been “hotly contested” by scientists and that the government “seriously underplayed” the impact of oil on marine life.
In the aftermath of the spill, BP convened a pair of roundtable discussions facilitated by Sustainability in London and Washington. Various environmental and social justice NGO’s attended, along with socially conscious investors and industry peers. What these groups told BP was that “if BP is to rebuild trust, it must go beyond transparency and engagement and demonstrate real and substantial shifts in culture, investments and strategy.” According to SustainAbility’s Jeff Erikson, “There was a strong desire expressed by many of those present at the roundtables for BP to lead the industry to a more sustainable future.”
Based on these recent events, as well as the contents of the 2010 Sustainability Report, it would seem as if BP not really not yet gotten to transparency and engagement, never mind the “real and substantial shifts in culture investments and strategy.”
RP Siegel, PE, is a writer and consultant on various aspects of sustainability. His most recent book is the novel, Vapor Trails, the first in a series co-authored with former Ford VP and Plug Power CEO Roger Saillant. The book addresses issues around global warming and energy.
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