Legislators seek transparency from BP but feel snubbed

Two state lawmakers who persuaded the Legislature to call for BP to provide full access to its oil-spill information now say they’re frustrated with the oil giant’s continued lack of compliance.



The state House and Senate in June unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 208, sponsored by New Orleans Democratic Reps. Walter Leger III and Cedric Richmond.

Though it doesn’t have the force of law, the measure asks that BP provide researchers, news media and the general public with all of its scientific data on the spill, particularly the rate of flow.

A BP spokesman says the company is doing the best it can to get information to the public, but the bill’s authors aren’t convinced.

“It seems to me that they continue to have a difficult time in providing accurate information, and it’s difficult for me to believe that with the level of scientific expertise at their disposal that they can’t provide that information,” Leger said in an interview this week.

Leger said that one of the environmental scientists reporting to him claimed that analysis and other data provided by BP were dated, incomplete or inaccurate. Leger declined to say who that scientist is.

“It leads one to believe that they’re choosing not to provide that information,” Leger said.

BP spokesman John Curry said BP is “doing everything we possibly can to be as transparent as possible.”

He said that data requests are pouring in and that BP is trying its best to keep up.

Richmond bemoaned the fact that there’s no way to substantiate the information they do get.

“We’re taking notice of the information they’re telling us and we’re trying to fact check it,” he said. “The unfortunate thing is that we have no way to independently verify that they are giving us all of the accurate information or not –   at least as they give it to us.”

Leger does not limit his skepticism to scientific data. He said he questions BP’s information on claims submitted by businesses for losses, as well as the depth and breadth of damage to wildlife.

“It’s this kind of continued lack of transparency and willingness to provide less than the whole picture to the public through the media that, I think, continues to cast a shadow of doubt on the entire process,” he said.

Karl Connor, government affairs director for BP America, said that the issue of transparency arose during a hearing with the Louisiana House Natural Resources Committee in mid-June, where legislators asked for specific information about the oil dispersant Corexit, which is produced by the Nalco Holding Company.

BP executives said such information is proprietary and that it couldn’t release the information.

The Legislature’s resolution urges BP to publish information on its website on when, where, what and how much dispersant is being released into the Gulf of Mexico.

“We have from the beginning said that we are the responsible party under the OPA [Oil Pollution Act of 1990] and that we will do everything that we’re supposed to do until the job is completely done – until every drop of oil is gone and people are made whole for all legitimate claims,” Connor said.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was passed in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. It requires the party responsible for the spill pay for its cleanup and certain damages.

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