BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a disaster three decades in the making.
Eighty four days after it began, with probably 180 million gallons spilled, the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico may be at an end. BP’s new cap should stop the flow. But the questions over the oil giant’s record endure. Company insiders, past and present, say the Deepwater Horizon disaster was all too foreseeable. They describe a culture of arrogance and risk-taking spanning decades. Profits, it seems, always come before safety and whistle-blowers are intimidated, pressured out, or fired. Though CEO Tony Hayward promised to make the company safer when he took over in 2007, the pressure to cut costs intensified as he struggled to please shareholders amidst an economic downturn.
Hayward started at BP as a rig geologist in 1982. That same year, almost three decades before the gulf spill and six years before the Exxon Valdez coated the Alaskan coastline with 11 million gallons of oil, James Woodle had just taken a job with the Alyeska oil consortium at Valdez in Alaska—majority-owned by BP. Among other responsibilities, the retired Coast Guard captain was in charge of spill recovery.