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White House, BP tried to spin oil spill science, emails reveal

By David Ferguson
Friday, April 15, 2011 10:03 EDT
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Emails obtained by activists with Greenpeace revealed Friday that even as BP dedicated funds to study the effects of last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it was also working behind the scenes to control the science studying its impact.

According to The Guardian, one BP environmental expert, wrote in an email to colleagues on June 24th, 2010, “Can we ‘direct’ GRI [Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative] funding to a specific study (as we now see the governor’s offices trying to do)? What influence do we have over the vessels/equipment driving the studies vs the questions?”

BP announced in May of last year that it was creating the $500m to study the impact of the spill.  The following month, BP’s website stated that the first rounds of those funds had reached universities.

“It is vitally important that research start immediately into the oil and dispersant’s impact, and that the findings are shared fully and openly,” BP’s now-deposed CEO Tony Hayward said, “We support the independence of these institutions and projects, and hope that the funding will have a significant positive effect on scientists’ understanding of the impact of the spill.”

Inside BP, it was a very different story.  Notes obtained from a meeting of BP officials in Houma, Louisiana show that the corporation was mostly interested in directing the research toward conclusions favorable to BP, and was actively weighing what types of study would yield the most favorable results.

The emails also highlight disputes between the White House and other agencies over the total scope of the disaster.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EPA both clashed with White House officials during the drafting of the administration’s account of what had happened to the massive quantities of spilled oil.

On August 4th, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco contacted the White House urging them to issue a retraction of their statement that the “vast majority” of the oil had disappeared from the Gulf.

You can read the Guardian article here and the released notes from the BP meeting here.

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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