Bob Dudley, the American who is now heading BP, has been quietly, steadily doing what he was hired to do-- shore up the fortunes, and the image, of the harried company. On Monday, BP announced it had raised $1.8 billion by selling off assets to help cover the costs of the oil spill. To date, it has raised more than $11 billion, and over the next 16 months it aims to raise a total of $30 billion.
The company sold some assets in Venezuela and Vietnam to TNK-BP, its 50 percent-owned Russian oil venture and the third largest oil company in Russia, which is responsible for roughly a quarter of BP’s oil output. “These are robust businesses which offer both existing production and potential opportunities for future growth,” Dudley said in a statement about the sale. The transaction will leave half the assets’ equity on BP’s books but give the company an immediate flow of cash.
BP did all of this without grabbing major headlines. But with the moratorium on deepwater drilling now lifted has the company taken seriously its disastrous safety record, and is it on a path to reform? Not if this statement is more than a legal ploy: “But BP and its affiliates deny engaging in any grossly negligent conduct in connection with the Deepwater Horizon incident or the resulting oil spill.”
A lot of people are wondering, especially on the six-month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that on April 20 killed 11 people, injured 17, destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people, and caused tens of billions of dollars in damages. Over an 87-day period, something like 200 million gallons of oil gushed into the water, which the American public could witness by way of a vivid webcam feed. Scores of people in the Gulf region continue to live with the economic devastation of the spill. Scores are still watching out for the wild things, above and below the water, that have been affected, and will continue to be.
Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico, some 13,500 people continue to clean, maintain, and monitor the region. And spill claims continue to be paid, to the tune of $1.45 billion as of October 19.
Is a quiet, steady-as-she-goes approach the right way to steer the ship of a badly damaged, hugely profitable company? Depends how you define “quiet.” In a court filing on Monday, BP restated its earlier pledge to waive the $75 million liability cap that the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 permits. (More than 300 lawsuits have been filed against BP over the rig explosion and oil spill.) In a four-page filing, the company said, “BP consistently has said it would pay all legitimate claims, regardless of the OPA limit of liability. Indeed, BP already has paid many times more than the OPA limit for damages and will continue to live up to its public commitment to pay all legitimate claims.”
“BP reserves the right to seek reimbursement or contribution from other responsible parties and third parties for claims, costs, expenses, and liabilities.”
BP, once again, could get loud.
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