A Book Review,
On Poisoned Legacy: the Human Cost of BP’s Rise to Power (St. Martin’s Press) by Mike Magner.
Here’s my bead on Magner’s book….
I almost fell off the barstool when I read that it was Bain Capital (Mitt Romney, former CEO), that told oil giant BP it was a good idea to cut costs. The cuts would lead to death, mayhem and the destruction of the Gulf Coast (not to mention BP’s poisoning of Alaska, Africa, Central Asia and Colombia).
In 2007, after BP’s criminal negligence and penny-pinching led to the explosion at the BP oil refinery on the Gulf Coast, in Texas City, Texas, the company brought in industry pooh-bah James Baker, their lawyer and former Secretary of State, to write a report. Baker is Big Oil’s BFF, but in this case, he was horrified, and told BP to get its act together and spend some real money on operating safety.
BP didn’t like Baker’s recommendation nor did it like another report by its own consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton which advised the company to …get its act together and spend money on safety.
When two respected industry voices agree that you’d better start spending and thinking while you’re operating in a deadly business, a corporation’s CEO has only one choice: find a consulting house of ill repute to contradict the others and tell you what you want to hear.
That’s what BP’s CEO Tony Hayward did. In 2008, he hired Bain Capital to say the company would be better managed if it spent less money. Bain used consulting BS terms like reducing “complexity,” but it all meant the same thing: cut, cut, cut.
After all, Bain’s motto is, “We like to fire people.” The oil company then fired 5,000 employees in response to the Bain report.
To hell with safety.
BP read Bain’s recommendations as the green light to chop funding. Of course, it was all done with Hayward’s PR pronouncement that the company would now “focus like a laser on safety”. (A laser, I’d note, is a thin beam surrounded by darkness.)
BP’s Bain-blessed, deadly, insouciant cost-cutting was the deadly habit that federal regulators identified as a cause of the Deepwater Horizon blow-out.
That’s just one of the ill-making stories in Magner’s book which takes you through BP’s poisonous history before, during and after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blow-out.
Much of Magner’s opus centers on the Texas City refinery explosion that was a loud, flaming warning about allowing BP to play with matches and oilrigs. He begins and ends with the story of another refinery, Amoco’s long-closed plant at Neodesha, Kansas.
At first, that sounds weird for a book about BP — but it’s an exceptionally important tale, explaining how the industry hits and runs. Amoco closed its refinery decades ago, took off and left the toxins there. It takes years for toxins to kill, and Amoco’s poisons killed Lucille Campbell’s baby in 1963. And it takes more years to figure that out, which Lucille did in 1999, after BP bought Amoco.
Lucille continues to this day to fight to stop the rash of cancers and poisonings still caused by BP’s dump. The oil company has done the honorable thing: it’s gone after Lucille and her little township, attempting to smear, discredit and bankrupt her and the company’s victims.
Lucille’s fight against the petro-saur corporation is the big story of the book that you should read — in fact, that you should memorize.
Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic, centering on Palast’s own undercover investigation of BP and Big Oil around the planet. www.VulturesPicnic.org.
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