In its Sustainability Review, published Wednesday, oil giant BP sought to polish its image — and to a large extent, the ongoing spin machine is working. To the company’s credit, they have made a phenomenal financial investment in restoring the Gulf of Mexico. And arguably, everyone benefits from a tourism boom.
Further, as detailed in the report, the number of annual oil spills — and yes, that’s spills plural — dropped dramatically over the past four or five years. In 2007, the company reported 213 land-to-water oil spills; 170 in 2008; 122 in 2009; 142 in 2010; and in 2011 102.
Fatalities are also on the decrease, both for staff and contractors. In the past year, the company did lose one employee — oil refinery worker William Barry Wise — and as tragic as that is, BP lost 18 contractors (though no staffers) in 2009, and of course the 11 men working on the Deepwater Horizon rig as well as three others in 2010.
Yet, the picture is not quite so rosy when it comes to discerning how much spin one can really put on things like dolphin deaths. As reported in this space, not only did the number of dolphin deaths spike dramatically after the spill, as recently as the past few months, dead dolphins have washed up at Grand Isle.
Yet, no mention of the oil spill as the overriding factor is included when BP says that:
BP is participating in and providing funding for live dolphin health assessments, population assessments, and the collection of environmental and food chain data as part of the NRD process. Other participants in the studies include federal and state agencies and the Chicago Zoological Society. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began investigating a series of dolphin deaths — known as unusual mortality events — in February 2010, before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill started. Potential causes could include toxic algal blooms, infectuous diseases, persistent organic pollutants, and dolphins being struck by boats. The investigation is ongoing.
Other issues outlined in the report, such as responsibly cleaning up the miles and miles of shoreline impacted by the disaster are also hot-button topics. Numerous readers of this column have shared not only their anecdotes, but real images of the horrors affecting their lives, from Orange Beach, Ala. to Grand Isle, LA.
According to BP, 4,300 miles of Gulf coast shoreline were surveyed — presumably by them — and of this, 635 miles required “some measure of cleaning.” Some areas of the shoreline will remain untouched, the company says, where it’s deemed more ecologically practical.
The company claims that during 2011, “the majority of the mechanical and manual clean-up effort was completed.” Even so, monitoring will continue and the company will work in tandem with the federal on-scene coordinator “to determine that operational removal activity is complete.”
The position of federal-on-scene coordinator was fairly fluid during the oil spill, with Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft taking the reigns from Adm. Thad Allen, and after just three months relinquishing the position to Rear Adm. Mary Landry.