British Petroleum’s Hands

When I was a young boy growing up in Wharton County, my family would annually drive to Matagorda Bay and buy shrimp off the boats.  We’d take them back to our family farm, clean them, eat some that night and freeze the rest.  After cleaning pounds and pounds of shrimp, your hands would smell for days no matter how many times you washed them.There may come a day when no young boy does that with his family because of British Petroleum’s oil slick now covering so much of the Gulf of Mexico.  The Southern Shrimp Alliance says they’ve been nearly devastated by foreign competition and this disaster could put them under completely.

British Petroleum’s explosions and messes have haunted my career as a journalist.

pipelinexplosion 200x300 British Petroleums HandsIn 2000, I moved to the small town of Bellingham, Washington to become a radio reporter.  It was just one year after the Olympic Pipeline explosion rocked that community and killed three young boys.  They had been playing with a cigarette lighter near a creek that had been filled with 237,000 gallons of gasoline.  The mayor of Bellingham, Mark Asumundson, has called the boys heroes because the creek runs into downtown, but the boys playing with the lighter ignited the fuel before it could reach the city center.

British Petroleum took over operations of the pipeline and almost immediately began running jet fuel and gasoline through it again before there was ever any explanation as to why the fuel had leaked into the creek.  The community was changed forever but BP washed their hands of it and kept rolling right along.  It was later reported that a city crew doing excavation work in a park had scratched the pipe, leading to the leak.

In 2005, I was working at KTRH in Houston when BP’s Texas City plant exploded, killing 15 people and injuring hundreds of others. I was on the scene reporting for days afterward as to why the plant had exploded.  Despite the fact that there is heavy industry all along miles of the Texas coast, the BP Plant seems to be the one we were always reporting from because it often caught fire or exploded.  What struck me the most about it is that right across the street from the great exploding plant there are homes with play sets for children in the yards.

Shortly after that disaster, the head of the company, unchallenged by anyone in the media, told the people of Southeast Texas, “This is a safe plant.”  BP washed their hands of that and kept rolling right along.

These events led to a day when I would in no way be shocked by BP’s oil rig exploding, killing 11 people and sending millions of gallons of crude onto the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.  No matter how many times they wash their hands of these kinds of disasters, BP’s hands will always smell.

Note:  This post first appeared here on my friend Glenn W. Smith’s Dog Canyon.

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