THE LATEST: Next in BP Spill Saga: Civil Trial Worth Billions

No corporation has had a more disastrous track record in the past decade than British energy giant BP.

The catastrophic spill in the GULF OF MEXICO, the refinery explosion in TEXAS that killed 15 people, and the largest oil spill on land in ALASKA history are all well-known chapters in BP’s poisoned legacy.

While these tragedies were playing out, BP was also being pressed to clean up another environmental mess in KANSAS, where the small city of Neodesha is plagued by toxic wastes from oil refining in the last century.

But after one of the longest legal battles in state history, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled this summer that BP is not responsible for a full cleanup in Neodesha. Instead, a lower court ruling that went in BP’s favor will stand, and the company only needs to monitor the city’s badly tainted groundwater and let Mother Nature take care of the cleanup over the next 100 years or so.

With the world watching in horror as BP’s mile-deep well spewed oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico for 86 days in 2010, the company was forced to publicly pledge that it would do whatever it took to restore the rich ocean resource. But outside the spotlight in rural Kansas – where there was little media attention – BP opted to spend millions of dollars on lawyers to oppose a costly cleanup, even if it meant condemning a community of 2,500 people to greatly reduced property values from sitting above a toxic waste dump.

That alone is reason to be skeptical of BP’s slick ads, Olympics endorsements and well-funded public relations efforts aimed at showing its good stewardship of the planet. The only way to make sure BP is true to its word is constant media scrutiny, as many news outlets in the Gulf and elsewhere are doing so well.

This website, following on the book Poisoned Legacy: The Human Cost of BP’s Rise to Power, will attempt to keep tabs on BP’s progress in all its trouble spots:

  • There is also a NEWS ARCHIVE of major stories on BP since the narrative in Poisoned Legacy ended in December 2010. (The book was published by St. Martin’s Press in June 2011.)


    1998 — BP acquires Amoco in biggest industrial merger in history up to that point.

    2004 — City of Neodesha, Kansas, sues BP demanding cleanup of toxic contamination from abandoned Amoco refinery.

    2005 — BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, explodes, killing 15 workers and injuring more than 180 others.

    2006 — Leak from BP pipeline causes largest oil spill on land in Alaska history and shuts down Prudhoe Bay oil field.

    2010 — BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico explodes, killing 11 rig workers and causing largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

    2010 — Kansas Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Neodesha’s case against BP.

    From the book

    [BP CEO Bob] Dudley acknowledged in his October 25 speech in Houston that BP had a long way to go to rebuild trust with the public. “When people look at a BP logo on a gas station today they probably associate it with the accident and the spill,” he said. “But our actions can help inform perceptions. And I would hope that people are starting to think about the magnitude and intensity of our response to that spill and the way we are doing as much as we can to restore livelihoods, look after the environment and rebuild relationships.

    “I would hope they would also see a company that has suffered a terrible accident but has the humility and courage to learn from that incident and prevent such a thing happening again. I’d hope they would also see a company that is determined to do the right thing by the people of the Gulf region and across the United States. I prefer to look our customers in the eye and say to them, ‘We’re sorry about what happened, but we’re not running away and we’re going to make it right.’”

    Two days after its CEO spoke those words, BP was doing all it could to run away from a toxic waste site in the heart of America that was the legacy of the very “heritage companies” Dudley had proclaimed as his own.

    Mike Magner on CNN’s AC360, 4-19-11

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