Spill, Baby, Spill

By Isikoff, Ian Yarett Michael; Philips, Matthew | Newsweek, May 10, 2010 | Go to article overview

Spill, Baby, Spill


Isikoff, Ian Yarett Michael, Philips, Matthew, Newsweek


Byline: Michael Isikoff, Ian Yarett, and Matthew Philips

BP has been trying hard to burnish its public image in recent years after being hit with a pair of environmental disasters, including a fatal refinery explosion in Texas and a pipeline leak in Alaska. One major step was to announce, in 2007, that it had hired a high-powered advisory board that included former EPA director Christine Todd Whitman, former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, and Leon Panetta, who were each paid $120,000 a year. (Panetta left when he became President Obama's CIA director.) Two years ago the oil giant's chief executive, Robert Malone, flew board members out to the Gulf of Mexico on a helicopter to demonstrate the safeguards surrounding BP's advanced drilling technology. "We got a sense they were really committed to ensuring they got it right," Whitman told NEWSWEEK.

Now BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, finds itself blamed for what could prove to be the worst oil spill in U.S. history. And only weeks after Obama announced an ambitious plan to open up more U.S. offshore waters to oil drilling, shunting aside environmental concerns from his own Democratic Party, his administration is facing a comeuppance from hell. "There was a lot of wishful thinking, I guess," says Villy Kourafalou, a scientist at the University of Miami's Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. "The new technologies were said to be so wonderful that we'd never have an oil spill again." Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who had sought to block the expanded drilling, says the oil and gas industry was pushing this idea hard. "They said, 'We'll never have a repeat of Santa Barbara,'? …

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