A year after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up (along with its reputation), BP clearly has a long way to go to rebuild trust.
As might be expected, the oil giant's executives were confronted by protesters (one smeared with a black, oil-like substance) and heated accusations at the company's first annual general meeting since the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
Rejecting charges that BP values profits over safety, Chairman Carl Henric Svanberg told shareholders that safety is the #1 priority for the world's fourth-largest company. New CEO Bob Dudley also read out the names of the 11 men killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
Not all shareholders were buying it. One woman, from a community affected by the oil spill on the Gulf Coast, read aloud a letter written by the father of one of the men killed — persisting even as Svanberg tried to cut her off.
As CNN reports, the grieving father's letter she read stated, in part: "This was no act of God — BP, Halliburton and Transocean could have prevented this. But it would have taken more time, more money, and you were too greedy to wait. You rolled the dice with my son's life, and you lost."
Other shareholders wanted to know specifically what BP was doing to ensure safety was indeed its top priority.
"We are working hard to earn back trust," said Dudley. "Through our actions, not just our words."
He outlined steps including "tying employees' performance and review evaluations to how effectively they understand and implement safety standards and procedures, enhancing the company's own internal requirements for well safety devices and equipment, and ensuring the proper containment equipment is in place before drilling a well."
Separately, the White House oil spill panel today stated that BP was not alone in lax practices in the events leading up to the disaster — a finding that won't appease the protesters, including Greenpeace, at the company's meeting today.
Meanwhile, the debates over compensation (including so-called spillionaires), the extent of the environmental damage, and the human impact of the spill continue. The Wall Street Journal, in a lengthy report on the Gulf one year after the April 20th, 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, writes:
The long-term human toll is perhaps the hardest to gauge. The U.S. has launched a study to monitor 55,000 former cleanup workers for up to a decade, looking at everything from skin rashes to increased cancer risk.
"The jury's still out" about whether the oil sickened people, says Donald Boesch, a University of Maryland oceanographer who served on a presidential commission that investigated the spill. The long-term study, he says, "should tell us an awful lot about whether there's any substance to those claims."
(Image via Greenpeace UK)