ProPublica Exposes BP’s Flawed Corporate Culture

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm

If you read nothing else today, read the new ProPublica investigation on the many flaws in BP’s corporate culture that led to the massive Gulf oil spill.

Here’s an excerpt that sums the story up nicely:

The investigation found that as BP transformed itself into the world’s third largest private oil company it methodically emphasized a culture of austerity in pursuit of corporate efficiency, lean budgets and shareholder profits. It acquired large companies that it could not integrate smoothly. Current and former workers and executives said the company repeatedly cut corners, let alarm and safety systems languish and skipped essential maintenance that could have prevented a number of explosions and spills. Internal BP documents support these claims.

A ProPublica analysis of state and federal records revealed that BP has fared far worse in the United States than the rest of the industry in terms of spills and serious safety violations.

In Alaska, home to one of BP’s longest-standing and most important business units, the company produced nearly twice as much oil as ConocoPhillips, the other major company operating there, but since 2000 it has also recorded nearly four times as many large spills of oil, chemicals or waste. In the Gulf of Mexico, BP had more spills than Shell between 2000 and 2009, even though Shell produced more oil there.

BP’s workers also appear to be more at risk. In Alaska, it has had 52 worker-safety violations since 1990, compared with ConocoPhillips’ seven. Nationally, according to an extensive analysis of data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, BP had 518 safety violations over the last two decades, compared with 240 for Chevron and even fewer for its other competitors. Since those statistics were compiled, in 2009, OSA has announced 745 more violations at two BP refineries, one near Toledo, Ohio, and the other in Texas City, Texas, where 15 people were killed and 170 injured in a 2005 explosion.

PBS’ Frontline, which partnered with ProPublica on the investigation, will premiere a documentary tonight based on the reporting.

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