June 16, 2010

Internal BP email shows how the company handles a crisis

Posted: 12:52 PM ET

BP’s history provides a window into its corporate culture. In fact, you really don’t have to go back too far – just five years or so.

Texas plaintiff attorney Brent Coon represented many victims and their families after a 2005 BP explosion at a Texas City, Texas refinery, which killed 15 workers and injured 180 others.

Coon’s team uncovered more than seven million internal BP documents. He says most of the documents are BP emails, employee surveys, and other internal documents from the public relations department and chief counsel’s office.

One of those documents is an email that was written only three hours after the Texas City explosion happened. It was circulated throughout the company’s public relations department and to other managers at BP.


The subject line said, “Media coverage and loss of life.” It says, “looks like injuries and loss of life are heavy,” but because the incident happened before a holiday weekend, the PR person notes the media coverage will probably just “go away.”

Then, the last line of the email states, “This is a very big story in the US right now - but the Terry [sic] Schiavo story is huge as well.”

Terri Schiavo was the 41-year-old, brain-damaged, Florida woman whose story about whether her feeding tube would be removed had captivated the country.

BP’s public relations team saw this as positive for the company. Remember, 15 people had died only a few hours before this email was written. The rescue workers were still removing bodies from the scene when this email was sent out.

Sadly, they were probably right. My guess is that most people outside of Texas have never even heard about the 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City. But if we had paid closer attention, perhaps we could have learned a long time ago about BP’s safety problems, and how some employees felt the company placed profit before people’s lives.

Now, because of the enormity of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, this story will not just “go away.”

We wanted to talk to BP about this email to get their side of the story. BP responded with a statement, but did not specifically address the email. Here is part of their response: “BP has worked diligently since the accident in March 2005 to address safety concerns at the Texas City site. BP has spent more than $1 billion at Texas City to address safety concerns since 2005. We continue to work cooperatively with OSHA to resolve these matters. We are determined to learn from this event and get better as a company.”

Filed under: Abbie Boudreau • Special Investigations Unit

Share this on:
gerry   June 17th, 2010 3:16 am ET

Patricia D Wright is a real piece of crap for a human being.
Hope she is real proud of the e-mail she wrote in 2005.
Just another story that reveals the company BP for who
they really are and what they stand for.
We should pump our own oil and tell these losers to get
the hell out of OUR gulf and to go back home.
We dont need them and thier arrogant attitudes.
Your a loser Pat, We dont need You or want you and your
stupid emails!

Shane Campbell   June 17th, 2010 7:35 pm ET

Nice work Abbie!

I think your story made people want to punch BP in the face even more than they already did. It's truly unbelievable that this kind of criminal negligence can go without punishment.

patricia bailey   June 19th, 2010 2:39 pm ET

Just saw this on CNN on tv. This is the first thing I thought of (that BP staged this) when this oil was gushing and the most important thing on the news was that New York City Time's Square was evacuated from a bomb scare. I really did thnk that our government did this fake stunt to take us off the oil gushing. NOW, I am thinking it was BP.

patricia bailey   June 19th, 2010 2:45 pm ET

I think BP staged the recent NYC Time's Square evacuations to get us off what was really happening. It WAS the bigger news story at the time and I could not believe it, because I saw what this oil was going to do from day one. Wish our government could have seen this, too. (And, I don't even live anywhere near the Gulf, but could just see what was going to happen....)

robert bresciani   June 22nd, 2010 3:32 am ET

it is hard to believe that by simply covering up the pipe with gravel will not slow down the flow of oil to a trickleuntill the relieve drill is made

robert bresciani   June 22nd, 2010 3:35 am ET

or simply dump a bunch of sand bag will also reduce the gush considerably.

Peggy Strickland   June 28th, 2010 6:48 pm ET

Several weeks ago, CNN had an on-air interview and demonstration from a man who claimed to have a product that would absorb oil in situations like the current and ongoing "spill." Judging only from the demonstration, the product appeared to work, but from that day to this, I've neither seen nor heard another word about this man or his product invention. What happened to this individual? Why has no one tested his product?

At this point anything is worth a try, particularly something like his product, which seemed to be much preferrable to the bumbling that's gone on to this point. Has he been gagged by the oil company? And why isn't CNN doing it's usual digging to find out what happened?

Daniel Evans   June 30th, 2010 12:54 pm ET

Public Relations is all about pleasing the common people.'–

xylindia morpheus   June 30th, 2010 9:02 pm ET

Scuse me but does anyone anywhere think bp is the only non usa drilling company taking advantage of easily broken regulations?? Helloooooo helloooo is anyone OUT THERE!

xylindia morpheus   June 30th, 2010 9:04 pm ET

Let those who use no oil products and drive no car throw the first stone. All of us are guilty of the oil spew. We all consume oil products.

Dan   June 30th, 2010 11:51 pm ET

If a person did this, they would be sent to jail. If people do it and call themselves a business, then it is ok because the money is good. Why are there 2 Americas? Our criminal justice system appears to be run by the criminals themselves. Is anyone sane enough to not take a bribe for once?

cherie   July 1st, 2010 3:40 am ET

I remember well the man that talked about microbes that will eat up oil naturally and then they die. He said it was relatively cheap to make as many as they need to do so....a natural solution. Haven't heard a thing at BP about this. He was very scientific and seemed like a sound and trustworthy man with a great idea.

Mike in Montana   July 7th, 2010 5:58 am ET

It time for 'BP' CEO Tony Hayward to go.., (period). Why BP CEO Tony Hayward didn't 'resign' after the explosion, and eleven good men died, is beyond me. Why the BP Board of Directors and Chairman didn't 'fire' Tony Hayward is also strange. Tony's big mouth and no talent for answering questions to our congress or is he a public relations (PR) expert. He has constantly made 'BP' look bad and he certainly is 'not' a leader. If BP's stock keeps dropping and the cost of the clean-up keeps climbing and the hundreds of lawsuits, if not thousands on the horizon.., Tony, its time to go. Mike in Montana

hearseman   July 7th, 2010 1:13 pm ET

If you look at the facts: They never tried capping the well. Everything they tried had a hose connected to it. Getting the oil is the most important item here. I have heard the they would lose their lease if they capped the well. It is a very large reserve and this clean-up thing is fluff to placate the natives.
Obviously the EPA must know about this lease thing and are in bed with BP.
The Gov. (EPA & the Coast Guard) has done and are doing everthing they can to get in the way of the clean up. The Coast Guard shut down barges pumping oily waste to check for lifejackets & fire extinguishers and the EPA said that the state of LA. Didn’t have the right permits to build a berm to protect their marsh land.
These actions seen a bit treasonous to me. Protecting our wetland has to be more important than lifejacket & fire extinguisher checks or even the right permits.
If I personally see oil in our marshes I expect the officials to be fired and criminally tried for aiding in the destruction of our nations natural resources.

Belinda   July 7th, 2010 5:31 pm ET

The Supreme Court has given Corporations the right to destroy the lives of families. They don't care. This will be what the future holds for us, if Republicans win this fall, they don't want this to go away. They want our country to go down economically for political reasons only. They want this war to continue even tho we cannot afford it . They don't care about your health or your safety at work.. In the future, Corporations best interests will rule .My son won a full scholarship to an Ivy league University. The health insurance that he has to have is 10,000 a year. We can barely afford this. Are we going to deny hardworking and gifted students the right to go to a University because they come from middle class or poor families?. Students need to think ahead . They need Health Care, or they may not be able to follow their dreams. Democrats want to help American workers, students and families too. Heed the warning if we allow Republicans to win this fall, in the future, Corporations will rule this country . Osha will no longer even exist. Fear Republicans, they could finish what Bush started.

spanglish   July 8th, 2010 7:56 am ET

Why don't you investigate Transocean and it negligence to repair the oil leaks and tha safety switch? Transocean is as responsible and liable as BP .
Viva Arizona. American Justice Sucks.

Mike in Montana   July 8th, 2010 9:06 am ET

What a 'despicable' company, including their CEO Tony Hayward. There should be criminal charges brought against 'BP' for being incompetent, fraudulent, intentional deception, safety violations, criminal negligence.., I am so angry at this company, that I can't think of the right words to say about this company. My point is.., eleven (11) good men meant their death because of this companies 'greed' for production and money without concern for safety and has caused a major environmental disaster to the Gulf of Mexico, the wetlands, marshes, coast lines, beaches, wildlife, economy, tourism, thousands of jobs,and business', etc.. If the Attorney General's of the states effected and the United States Attorney General does 'not' investigate and 'prosecute' and make someone at BP 'accountable' for their actions or non-actions.., then there is something really wrong with our judicial system. I thought, that I would never say this, but I will.., "I hope they are sued to death.." 'BP' caused this disaster and should pay for it and with more than money.., someone should go to jail or prison, (period). May God help the Gulf of Mexico and all the states effected and the people. Mike in Montana

rosslaw   July 8th, 2010 12:55 pm ET

Criminal manslaughter charges have to be brought against BP's company men and higher for their series of profoundly stupid decisions which led to 11 men being vaporized. The contempt many oil subcontractors in the Gulf of Mexico have for safey and long-standing federal safety regulations is open, obvious and rarely results in any consequences. Criminal is the only way to go or this whole BP episode will not result in any improvements in safety.

John A.   July 12th, 2010 11:51 am ET

People act like BP is the only company that does this. Whether BP falls for this or not, some other company will pick up where they left off and this will go on, as it has in the past.

Every company cuts corners and runs public relations to clean up their image, even if they are 100 percent wrong. Might I remind you that companies are in business to make profits, safety is not their number one concern; their balance sheet is.

BP used a cheaper less safe design, and as long as it complied with the regulations, then it is their perogative. If it was approved for use by the government, then they weren't negligent. Misrepresentation, fraud, manslaugher charges? I think not. They exercised their duty of saftey, obviously or the government wouldnt allow them to use that rig model. Manslaughter? No, these workers knew of the conditions and if they were so unstable and bad they wouldn't have worked for them in the first place; and that goes back to the government allowed them to use it.

What we should fight for, so those eleven men wouldn't have been lost in vain, is tougher laws and regulations.

PJ   July 13th, 2010 4:50 pm ET

2005 and a PRIVATE attorney uncovers this stuff in discovery- no one expects Bush's DOJ to do squat for the American people- they we're probably helping BP coverup. But where is Eric Holder's DOJ today? Are they issuing subpoenas? Are they forcing BP to retain documents? Are they doing ANYTHING other than supporting Bush's State Secrets doctrine so Obama can take a dodge on finding out what happened and why?
Eric Holder is probably one of the single most criminally negligent AG's I've ever seen in my life. The Regulatory Agencies are bad enough, but when the DOJ declines to do....well...anything, then we're ALL screwed! Hey, America- when was the last time you heard about Goldman Sachs, AIG, BOA having to produce documents? You won't. Ever.

Steven M.   July 13th, 2010 5:19 pm ET

What's your point? This e-mail is information that SURPRISES you? That e-mail, to me, is SOP for the corporate world of modern times. Get used to it, because you don't have the money to change it.

donald   July 14th, 2010 2:52 am ET

The ones guilty are in Washington D.C. that is where the regulatory departments are located and that is where the money flows that allows the crimanals that run this country to operate . I dont think any citizen of this country would have givin a permit to BP to drill in our costal waters other than the crooks called our leaders.ther lies our problem.

Anthony S   July 17th, 2010 6:16 pm ET

This one email was found amongst 7 million documents and it's over 5 years old. How is this "proof" of how BP handles a crisis? This merely is a demonstration of a PR person doing their their job. WIth over 100,000 employees, there were probably a lot of people who continued about their business and weren't in mourning at BP, because they had no more connection to the victims than John Q. Public.

"Sadly, they were probably right. My guess is that most people outside of Texas have never even heard about the 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City. But if we had paid closer attention, perhaps we could have learned a long time ago about BP’s safety problems, and how some employees felt the company placed profit before people’s lives."

What do you mean "sadly?" If CNN is "America's Most Trusted News Source," why should it be surprised or concerned that most people outside of Texas have never even heard about the 2005 explosion? I say them's crocodile tears.

MSCAPTININSANO   July 19th, 2010 12:56 pm ET


MSCAPTININSANO   July 19th, 2010 1:08 pm ET

do u know whats really ironic is bp is laughing at us and knows nothing will ever happen to anyone associated with the company because they have spent alot of money for theyre gauranteed freedom
bush was an oil man before presidency he made sure laws were changed to let the oil companys do what ever they want we were never short of oil when we were paying 4.00 a gallon either but u dont see a market speculator up on any charges nor will u ever.

Cameron Rogers   September 14th, 2010 4:00 am ET

you should always maintain good public relations specially if you operate a business"';

A   September 27th, 2010 2:55 pm ET

I don't think we should focus only in a specific group of people for their behavior. In the history of human kind criminal activities is an integrated part of all us. There is no force or journalist, or goverment or laws in the entire world to hold or control the inner human nature. You can make all the laws you want that is'nt going to change a facist from being a facist, a corrupt mind from acheiving power and use that power against others. People who think they are above anyone because they never comitted a crime can see them self in a crusade of inquisition neverless they can be compare as of those who in the catholic church participated in the holy wars in the name of God. They are not different in their hearts motivated by hate than any other man or woman that they acuse.

Dumbbell Set Weights    October 13th, 2010 7:34 am ET

public relations should always be maintained in good standing to have some great harmony with people'"'

Girls Bedroom :   October 24th, 2010 5:17 pm ET

we should always keep a very good public relations no matter what, `;'

Chelsea Larkin   December 28th, 2010 9:21 am ET

Bp has Increased the prices of our gas once again. Small Farmers, people with their small businesses CAN"T afford expensive gas. Evidently bp thinks that people everywhere in The United States are made out of Money. I live in Kentucky & gas is up to over $3.20 a gallon. Not everyone can afford something that expensive.. I think bp should try to lower this price before the gas gets even more expensive. Small businesses Dont bring in that much money, people have to pay for bills, clothing, & groceries with that money leaving not much money for gas.

Leave Your Comment


Comments are moderated by CNN, in accordance with the CNN Comment Policy, and may not appear on this blog until they have been reviewed and deemed appropriate for posting. Also, due to the volume of comments we receive, not all comments will be posted.

Powered by VIP