"I am so devastated with this accident … deeply sorry … and so distraught."
BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward, June 2010, soon after the Deepwater Horizon gulf oil spill
BP's guilt trip over its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico three years ago appears to be over.
BP CEOs no longer apologize.
BP's legions of oil-seeking beach clean-up crews are pretty much gone. The company-funded tourism ads pitching good times along the Gulf Coast are mostly done.
That was BP then.
BP's new legal and public relations campaign is much more combative. BP is tired of being pushed around. And it's annoyed it has become little more than a bottomless ATM.
Replacing the tourism ads is a new campaign that criticizes the Gulf Settlement Program set up to determine which claims for damages against BP are valid and how much victims should be compensated.
BP's ads portray that program as out of control.
One full-page newspaper ad slams a celebrity chef's restaurant company for seeking more than $8 million for oil spill losses that BP says are really due to new licensing fees. The ad does not identify the chef by name, but the description makes it clear BP is talking about Emeril Lagasse. The chef's management firm has subsequently confirmed a claim was made in "accordance with the settlement agreement."
Another BP ad attacks a settlement to award $173,000 to an adult escort service for lost business. BP says the claim was based on tax returns that were "unsigned and perhaps never filed" for alleged losses "having no apparent connection to the spill."
Last month, 247,356 claims representing 166,897 individuals and businesses had been filed for spill damages. About 60,000 of those are considered eligible for payment.
BP says it is not opposed to compensating real financial losses from the spill. But the volume of claims BP considers bogus or inadequately vetted has grown considerably.
On the flip side, news reports suggest lawyers for thousands of businesses in the settlement say BP failed to realize the immensity of the costs of the settlement deal and is trying to backpedal from terms it already had agreed to honor.
In addition to money scuffles, BP is fighting new scientific conclusions about the spill. A paper published last week in the Environmental Science & Technology journal cites a strong link between the BP spill and the deaths of dolphins from lung diseases and other abnormalities. Such fatalities jumped in the Gulf of Mexico after the spill.
While BP paid for the study, it disputes the findings.
The study appeared on the same day a New Orleans jury found a BP engineer guilty of obstruction of justice for deleting messages during a federal investigation into how much oil leaked at the Deepwater Horizon site.
It looks like the battle is only heating up.
Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]