BP Under Investigation For Trying To Silence Gulf Oil Spill Scientists

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Congress has launched an investigation into recent reports that have revealed that BP is paying off universities and Gulf scientists to keep a tight muzzle on oil spill research data by imposing contract that force scientists to hide their research from the public.

The investigation is being launched on the basis that the long term impact of the oil spill will require an open exchange of scientific data and analysis while BP is trying to keep a tight lid on such research.

The Congressional committee has given BP two weeks to turn over any contracts and related that BP has entered into with Gulf scientists.

The scope of the documents that Congress is demanding from BP includes any contracts executed with any third party consultant, scientist, or academic relating to assessing the environmental and health impacts of the oil spill as well as restoration efforts.

The letter from Congress about the investigation makes it clear the BP Gulf Oil Spill is not a private matter and aims to eliminate the suppression of scientific data.

Congress is also looking to deal with issues regarding the imposed contractual confidentially agreements BP has forced scientists it has retained to sign and also seeks to deal with issues regarding to refusal by BP to retain academics who would not to agree to the confidentiality agreements.

Here is the official press release from Congress about the investigation.

Chairmen Waxman and Markey Question BP on Scientific Suppression

Publications

Thursday, 29 July 2010 14:09

Following recent reports indicating that BP has hired academic experts to study the oil spill and imposed confidentiality agreements on the independent scientists, Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) requested full disclosure of the contracts today from BP.

“Mitigating the long term impact of the oil spill will require an open exchange of scientific data and analysis,” write Reps. Waxman and Markey to BP America CEO Lamar McKay. “Any effort to muzzle scientists or shield their findings under doctrines of legal privileges could seriously impede the recovery.”

The two congressmen ask BP to brief the Committee on Energy and Commerce by August 6, 2010, on the matter, and provide “copies of all contracts that BP has executed with any third party consultant, scientist, or academic, from the period April 20, 2010, to the present, relating to assessing the environmental and health impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Rep. Waxman chairs the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Markey chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

Here is the text of the letter Congress has sent to BP about muzzling Gulf scientists.

ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH CONGRESS

Congress Of The United States

House of Representatives

COMMITIEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE

2 125 RAYBURN HO– USE OFFICE BUILDING

WASHINGTON, DC 20515-6115

MAJORITY (202) 225-2927
FACSIMILR:  (202) 225-2525
MINORITY (202) 225-3641
energycommerce.house.gov
July 29,2010

Mr. Lamar McKay
Chairman and President
BP America, Inc.
501 Westlake Park Boulevard
Houston, TX 77079

Dear Mr. McKay:

The Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment are investigating the April 20, 20 I 0, explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig. The Committee’s investigation and recent media accounts have raised questions about the potential suppression of scientific data and analysis concerning restoration of the Gulf of Mexico. According to some accounts, BP has retained numerous academic experts upon whom it has imposed contractual confidentially agreements and that those academics who refused to agree to confidentiality were not retained. 1

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is not a private matter. The people of the Gulf and its fragile ecosystem continue to suffer terribly. Mitigating the long term impact of the oil spill will require an open exchange of scientific data and analysis. Any effort to muzzle scientists or shield their findings under doctrines of legal privileges could seriously impede the recovery.

To assist the Committee in investigating these issues, the Committee requests a briefing, by August 6, 2010, on BP’s retention of third party consultants, academics, and scientists, in connection with assessing the environmental and health impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as well as restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

1 BP buys up Gulf scientists for level defense. roiling academic community, The Mobile Press Register (July 16, 2010);
BP accused of ‘buying academic silence’, BBC News (July 22, 20 10);
BP tries to limit release of oil spill research, The Associated Press (July 23,20 10).

Mr. Lamar McKay
July 29, 2010
Page 2

In addition, the Committee requests that you provide the Committee with copies of all contracts that BP has executed with any third party consultant, scientist, or academic, from the period April 20, 20 I 0, to the present, relating to assessing the environmental and health impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. Please produce the requested documents to the Committee by August 12, 2010. An attachment to this letter provides additional information on how to respond to the Committee’s request. Please contact Tiffany Benjamin at (202) 226-2424 with the Committee staff to schedule the briefing and if you have any question regarding this request.

Herny A. Waxman
Chairman
Edward J. Markey
Chairman
Subcommittee on Energy
and Environment
Categories: BP GULF OIL SPILL

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