On June 5, 2014, the Chemical Safety Board releases a two-volume report shedding new light on the cause of the Gulf oil spill. Agency investigators say the blowout preventer failed when a long drill pipe running from the rig down into the ocean floor buckled under high pressure coming up from the oil reservoir. In addition, the agency found U.S. regulations governing offshore safety -- even new rules set after the 2010 oil spill -- do not address many key safety devices.
Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press
On May 21, 2014, BP announces that it will take the courtroom fight over its multibillion-dollar oil spill settlement to the Supreme Court. The London-based oil company argued that it has paid potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to claimants who were not affected by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, violating its interpretation of the $9.2 billion settlement it reached with plaintiffs’ attorneys in 2012.
[Photo: People walk on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.]
On May 20, 2014, a federal judge rules that some BP investors can form a class to sue the company over allegations it misled shareholders on how much oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The ruling followed the investors’ second bid to gain class certification needed for a securities lawsuit over allegations BP executives played down the amount of oil spewing from its blown-out Macondo well in early days of the 87-day disaster.
Seth Perlman / Associated Press
On April 21, 2014, a federal court sets Jan. 20, 2015 as the first day of the penalty phase of BP’s civil trial over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The penalty phase, during which U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will listen to testimony from BP and government attorneys over the British oil company’s liabilities in the spill, will end around Feb. 5 next year, the court said.
Dave Martin / AP
On April 17, 2014, the Coast Guard cries foul over BP’s claim that active cleanup efforts to remove oil along the Gulf Coast shorelines have ended, saying the process is “far from over.”
[Photo: Mickal Vogt of Covington, La., uses a stick to place tar balls in a jar that washed up on the shore in Orange Beach, Ala., Saturday, June 12, 2010. ]
Tech. Sgt. Adrian Cadiz / AP
On April 15, 2014 -- nearly four years after the Gulf oil spill -- BP declares an end to cleanup operations that cost the company $14 billion and once covered 778 miles of shoreline on the Gulf Coast. The Coast Guard had finished its last patrols of the three remaining miles of beach that had been soaked in oil after a blowout at BP’s Macondo well blew out.
[Photo: In May 2010, ships move an oil boom into place near Cat Island off the Gulf Coast of Mississippi as part of Deepwater Horizon oil spill response.]
In March 2014, BP reaches a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to end its 16-month suspension on doing business with the government. The deal allowed BP to bid on new drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico for the first time in nearly two years.
[Photo: BP repairs its Mad Dog rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012.]
Jonathan Bachman / Associated Press
Kurt Mix, center, arrives at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans. The former BP drilling engineer was convicted Dec. 18, 2013 of one charge that he deleted text messages from his cellphone to obstruct a federal investigation of the company’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gerald Herbert / Associated Press
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh leaves Federal Court after meeting with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who appointed Freeh to investigate alleged misconduct by a lawyer who helped run BP's multibillion-dollar settlement fund for the Gulf oil spill. Freeh recommended Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, that the Justice Department investigate whether several lawyers plotted to corrupt the settlement program designed to compensate victims of BP's 2010 Gulf oil spill.
Gerald Herbert / Associated Press
Steve Newman, president and CEO of Swiss-based Trancocean Ltd., leaves Federal Court after testifying in New Orleans, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Transocean was the owner of the rig Deepwater Horizon, which was being operated under contract to BP when BP's Macondo well blew out on April 20, 2010, setting into motion events that led to the nation's worst offshore oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon sank two days after the blow out.
Gerald Herbert / Associated Press
Lamar McKay, former president of BP America and current chief executive of BP's Upstream unit, leaves Federal Court after testifying in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. McKay, who was president of BP America at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, became the first BP executive to testify at the federal trial intended to identify the causes of BP's Macondo well blowout and assign percentages of blame to the companies involved.
Contributed Photo / Contributed Photo
A report by the National Wildlife Federation finds that the 3-year-old BP spill is still having a serious negative effect on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico and its wildlife populations. Pictured: Smoke billows over a controlled oil fire off the coast of Venice, La., on May 5, 2010.
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
An activist holds a sign during a protest in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building on the first day of the civil trial over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig spill on February 25, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Eleven men were killed during the accident and over 4 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Activists holds signs during a protest in front of the Hale Boggs Federal Building on the first day of the civil trial against BP in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013.
Robert Kaluza, a BP well site leader from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, talks with his attorneys Shaun Clarke, left, and David Gerger, right, as they enter Federal Court before he is arraigned on manslaughter charges in New Orleans on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.
Robert Kaluza, a BP well site leader from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, enters Federal Court before he is arraigned on manslaughter charges in New Orleans on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.
David J. Phillip/AP
BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells rubs his eyes while testifying during the Deepwater Horizon joint investigation hearings Aug. 26, 2010. The hearings were held by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Management, Regulation and Enforcement in Houston .
Demonstrators hold up signs on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday, May 17, 2010, as BP America Chairman and President Lamar McKay, right, waits his turn to testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to assess the nation's response to BP PLC's Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
A Capitol Hill police officer arrests Diane Wilson on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 17, 2010. BP CEO Tony Hayward was testifying before the Energy and Environment subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on the role of BP in the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.
Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle
A protester's sign lies outside a meeting where residents were able to get face-to-face time with BP and government officials at one of a series of open houses in New Orleans on June 23, 2010.
John Moore/Getty Images
The letters BP, inscribed in sand and oil by a Greenpeace activist, are shown on a beach at the mouth of the Mississippi River on May 17, 2010 near Venice, La.
James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle
Melanie Driscoll, director of Bird Conservation for the Louisiana Coastal Initiative, holds up oil residue on April 8, 2011. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries gave a press tour to show the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Port Sulphur, La.
Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle
A cleanup worker, wearing a protective coverall and carrying a small scoop, punctuates an otherwise typical holiday beach scene as patrols the beach looking for tar balls on Independence Day 2010.Tourist business along the Gulf Coast all reported feeling the sting of lost income from a noticeable dip in tourism the summer following the Deepwater Horizon spill.
A member of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's staff reaches into thick oil on the surface of the northern regions of Barataria Bay in Plaquemines Parish, La. on June 15, 2010.
Crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala. on June 12, 2010. Large amounts of the oil battered the Alabama coast, leaving deposits of the slick mess some 4 inches to 6 inches thick on some parts of the beach.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
A brown pelican stained with oil takes flight while a bird rescue team tries to capture it for cleaning on June 5, 2010 in Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Patches of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill are seen underwater in the Gulf of Mexico, south of Venice, La., on Monday, June 7, 2010.
Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle
A boat is surrounded by oil near the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill on Tuesday, June 15, 2010.
A shrimp boat is used to collect oil with booms in the waters of Chandeleur Sound, La.
People gather near crosses for the 11 workers who died in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, during a vigil to mark the first anniversary of the BP oil spill on a beach in Grand Isle, La.. The large cross in the center is for the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil floats in the waters of Chandeleur Sound, La. two weeks after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill floats on the water as the sky is reflected in sheen on Barataria Bay, off the coast of Louisiana on June, 7, 2010.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip.
U.S. Coast Guard
Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010. The blowout in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 people and sent 4.9 million barrels of oil gushing from the sea floor into the Gulf.
NEW ORLEANS — Miles of orange boom no longer snake along the coast. Public officials don’t clamor for action with the same frequency they did before. And the victims speak mostly through their lawyers in the courtroom.
Three years after the deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and Gulf of Mexico oil spill, it’s BP’s voice that is heard most often.
Regular television commercials being run nationally, executive speeches, press statements and social media remind Americans of what the British oil giant has done and continues to do to restore the water and beaches. The company also is still working to restore its battered image.
“Generally speaking, a company would do this type of advertising to raise awareness — or remind its community — of the resources that have been committed to addressing the problems they caused,” said Daniel Keeney, a Dallas public relations expert.
“It would often suggest that their polling shows that if people are reminded of the good works done in the aftermath of the problem, they would feel more positively about the company involved.”
BP owned the well that blew out a mile beneath the sea off Louisiana on April 20, 2010, triggering an explosion that killed 11 workers on Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Before the well was capped almost three months later, millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf in the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
BP has spent more than $25 billion so far on the cleanup, compensating victims and other spill-related costs. It also agreed to a multibillion-dollar civil settlement with thousands of individuals and businesses and $4.5 billion in fines related to criminal and Securities and Exchange Commission violations.
Billions of dollars more in damages and fines are at stake at a civil trial in federal court in New Orleans. The first phase of the trial, which focused on apportioning blame for the disaster and determining if any of the companies involved acted with gross negligence, wrapped up Wednesday after eight weeks of testimony.
The second phase, which will focus on the amount of oil that spilled, is set for September. The judge overseeing the case has not yet issued any major rulings as to the three main companies involved — BP, drilling contractor Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton.
3 years later: Environmental impact of the Gulf oil spill
On Wall Street, BP stock is still down 23 percent since the day before the spill. Investors are upset, and at the company’s annual meeting earlier this month they urged BP to fight harder to prevent the financial toll from the oil spill from ballooning.
“I think BP is continuing to run the commercials because they are still trying to regain their financial loss,” said Courtney Kemp-Robertson, who was married to rig worker Roy Wyatt Kemp when he was killed in the blast. She has since remarried.
“All BP is worried about is money; that’s all they have ever been worried about,” she added. “Why else would it take them three years to apologize? It kills my soul every time I see a BP symbol. I will never buy gas or even go into a BP store to use the restroom ever again.”
BP officials won’t say how much they have spent on their spill-related public relations efforts, but they insist their ongoing messaging has nothing to do with Saturday’s three-year anniversary or the trial. Reminding the public what the company has done and how the company contributes to the American economy is the goal, officials say.
Unhealed wounds: Gulf disaster victims’ loved ones tell of grief
“We made a commitment in the wake of the spill not just to help restore the Gulf, the environment and the economy, but also to keep the American people apprised of our efforts,” Geoff Morrell, head of U.S. communications for BP, said in an interview. “We take those commitments very seriously.”
Shelley Anderson’s commitment is to forgive those she blames for the death of her husband, rig worker Jason Anderson.
“I am working very hard to give them my complete forgiveness,” said Anderson, who will lay flowers on her husband’s grave to commemorate the sad anniversary. ”One day, I will be able to say that I have totally forgiven them for taking my husband from me and my children.
“I am sorry I am not at that point.”
A commercial featuring a BP operations manager, Fred Lemond, has continued to run in recent weeks along the Gulf Coast.
The spot talks of the promise BP made to America after the oil spill and how every day since, the company has “worked hard to keep it.” The commercial also notes the rebound in tourism in the region, the amount of money BP has spent on cleanup efforts and the money BP invests in the country and in creating U.S. jobs. BP says it has been running several commercials around the country for more than a year, and it says the commercials aren’t running with any greater frequency now than previously.
Timeline: The Gulf oil spill’s legal war
BP lately has been putting out its message in other ways, as well.
It sent out a five-page fact sheet to reporters talking about the progress of recovery in the Gulf, efforts to compensate individuals and communities affected and efforts to support long-term research. Among the money it says it has paid out to communities since the spill is $300 million for items including tourism promotion, seafood testing and marketing. Gulf states and local communities have been running their own promotional ads in addition to BP’s.
Online, BP has been active in recent days on Twitter. Morrell has sent out several Tweets over the last two weeks about new research showing the resiliency of the Gulf and other spill-related issues.
In the interview, Morrell pointed out that BP isn’t alone in the public conversation about the spill. He noted that while media attention has diminished, several news organizations, including the Houston Chronicle, continue to cover the trial and various other aspects of the spill and its aftermath.
Responding to critics who suggest BP should spend less on advertising and more on the Gulf, Morrell asserted that BP has honored its responsibilities.
“I don’t know how anyone with a straight face could argue the opposite now that we have spent more than $25 billion on the response, clean-up and claims thus far,” Morrell said. “That is a clear demonstration, manifestation, to our commitment to restore the Gulf, the environment and the economy.”
Gulf resergence: Oil companies bid $1.6 billion for Gulf drilling rights
Environmentalists and public officials along the Gulf have raised their profiles a little as the anniversary approaches, but for the most part aren’t seeking out coverage to the extent they were in the year or two after the Gulf disaster.
The National Wildlife Federation issued a report earlier this month asserting that dolphin deaths and sea turtle strandings in the waters affected by BP’s oil continue to occur at elevated rates. The group’s director at the time noted BP’s public relations efforts but insisted the spill is not over.
This week, environmental and community leaders gathered at the courthouse where the oil spill trial is being held to remind Americans they will continue to keep the pressure on BP to clean up the oil they say continues to wash up from the spill after storms, even if they aren’t as vocal as they once were.
As for the victims, Kemp-Robertson said the anniversary is difficult every year, but so are birthdays and holidays.
“Most everyone will forget what happened on April 20, 2010, but that is a reality that we as families carry with us every day,” she said.
Read ongoing FuelFix coverage of the legal trials surrounding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill: