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Statement in response to the first criminal indictment from the BP Spill

April 24th, 2012

April 24, 2012

Statement in response to the first criminal indictment from the BP Spill

Today a former BP employee has been indicted.  We believe that there are more criminal indictments of oil companies possible, if only the Department of Justice would look.  The Department should look into ongoing actions by managers at the ExxonMobil, Citgo, Chalmette Refining, Calumet and Motiva refineries here in Louisiana.

Why do we think there is criminal behavior? Because the oil industry tells us so. Their own reports to the state and federal government about their accidents detail a harrowing story of explosions and spills. Refinery neighbors and industry employees tell us something is drastically wrong. But the managers ignore the concerns and keep the refineries and the rigs running full steam ahead.

BP engineer Kurt Mix has been indicted for destroying evidence. This was wrong. What was also wrong were BP’s consistent efforts to hide the facts about the flow rate from the public. We now know that BP told the public that 5,000 barrels of oil were flowing per day, even as their own engineers estimated the amount to be 15,000 barrels. In fact, 50,000 barrels of oil were gushing into the Gulf of Mexico every day. Where is the prosecution for misleading the public?

Oil companies – including BP - should be investigated for knowingly making false statements to the public. “There is no danger,” we are told after every refinery accident or oil spill. “There is no off site impact.” Such false statements happened during the BP Disaster and happen on a regular basis from oil industry spokesmen around the state.

There is a danger that Kurt Mix as an individual will be demonized. What he did was wrong, but the renegade culture of the Louisiana oil industry spawned his behavior. Kurt Mix’s moral measuring stick reflects the oil industry, coming up short long before he deleted those text messages.

The Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency wrote in December of 2011 that Louisiana has a culture of protecting the oil industry rather than regulating it. It is this culture that allowed the BP Disaster to happen, and this culture (and more disasters) that will continue unless criminal prosecutions of oil industry executives commence.