BP Better At Stemming Journalists Than Oil Wells

If at some point in the future, an undersea fissure opens up and releases a cloudy, underwater gush of journalism that threatens to toxify America's coastal wetlands, you know who I am going to call to solve the crisis? BP. Because while BP is not very good at keeping its offshore oil platforms from exploding or estimating the flow of oil or plugging the leak through which that oil is flowing, one area in which BP has really excelled is bottling up the media and reporters seeking to cover the story.

The latest and best account of this comes in a well-traveled piece in Mother Jones from Mac McClelland, who describes her efforts to gain access to the Elmer's Island Wildlife Refuge. In a series of encounters that can only be called Kafkaesque, McClelland runs headlong into roadblocks erected by local officials, all of whom appear to be acting at the direction of BP. It's a must-read. Here's a taste:

When I tell [BP representative] Barbara [Martin] I am a reporter, she stalks off and says she's not talking to me, then comes back and hugs me and says she was just playing. I tell her I don't understand why I can't see Elmer's Island unless I'm escorted by BP. She tells me BP's in charge because "it's BP's oil."

"But it's not BP's land."

"But BP's liable if anything happens."

"So you're saying it's a safety precaution."

"Yeah! You don't want that oil gettin' into your pores."

"But there are tourists and residents walking around in it across the street."

"The mayor decides which beaches are closed." So I call the Grand Isle police requesting a press liason, only to get routed to voicemail for "Melanie" with BP. I call the police back and ask why they gave me a number for BP; they blame the fire chief.

I reach the fire chief. "Why did the police give me a number for BP?" I ask.

"That's the number they gave us."



When I tell Chief Aubrey Chaisson that I would like to get a comment on Barbara's intimations--and my experience so far--that BP is running the show, he says he'll meet me in a parking lot. He pulls in, rolls down the window of his maroon Crown Victoria, and tells me that I can't trust the government or big corporations.

Fun fact: "When everyone saw the oil coming in as clear as day several days before that, BP insisted it was red tide -- algae."

Oh! And lest you believe that reporters are the only thing BP is capable of controlling, they also seem to excel at limiting potential legal liability. They're just really bad at the whole "oil spill" thing.

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