Emails Show BP Meddling with Scientists Researching Their Spill

The memos aren't pretty

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Just a few days after news surfaced that BP and Washington may have been pretty misleading in their accounts of how clean the Gulf of Mexico is, a batch of company emails indicates that BP officials did their best to influence the ongoing research into the effect of last year's devastating oil spill.

The internal memos, acquired by environmental group Greenpeace through a Freedom of Information Act request, show BP managers discussing ways to "handle" research vessels from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as how to influence research and funding. As the Guardian, which first published the memos, points out, results of this research will have a lot of effect on what penalties BP ultimately faces--including criminal charges. So this is pretty heavy stuff. Here are some highlights from the exchange.

First Russell Putt, a BP environmental officer, introduces the idea of influencing research and funding:

Later, in some meeting notes compiled by BP environmental officer Karen Ragoonan-Jalim, there's a pretty clear look at how the company worked to plant its representatives on as many scientific teams as possible, to give it a "voice" in the research.

Later in the same meeting notes there's more on the attempt to influence the funding for the research:

And finally, that conversation about how to "handle" NOAA research vessels:

As the Guardian points out, there's no concrete evidence that BP successfully influenced Gulf spill research, but there's some anecdotal indication.

On 4 August, Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA administrator, demanded that the White House issue a correction after it claimed that the "vast majority" of BP oil was gone from the Gulf.

A few days earlier, Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, and her deputy, Bob Perciasepe, had also objected to the White House estimates of the amount of oil dispersed in the gulf. "These calculations are extremely rough estimates yet when they are put into the press, which we want to happen, they will take on a life of their own," Perciasepe wrote.

Before the U.S. government considers allowing BP back into the Gulf, here's hoping it does all of its homework, and not with the help of the petroleum company's own scientific team.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.