Is British Petroleum's "Openness" For Real?
Delivered to BP America Forum
Environmental justice would mean that decision-makers at polluting facilities would live near their facilities. What if all of us in
this room, including the decision-makers at BP, lived in the shadow of the giant chemical facility in Lima, or were members of
Rev. Manley's church located near the BP plant?
The ancient Romans had an interesting practice. The reason many of their arches are still standing today is because they
required the chief engineer of the project to be standing under the arch when the supports were removed. If the arch fell, he
was the first to know.
* * *
The discussion of "open-ness" strikes me as hollow for several reasons. For one, BP was one of the leading advocates for the
passage of the most devious attack on the right to know, the audit privilege law, in Ohio in 1996. A company that is open does
not need to hide evidence from the community, the courts, and the regulators.
In addition, over the past year, since the last BP forum in November 1997, BP has broken its commitment to deal in good faith
with the Allen County Citizens for the Environment and their proposed "good neighbor agreement."
At the 1997 forum, BP promised to get back quickly to ACCE with its comments on the good neighbor agreement, and once
again promised open communications. Six months passed. Finally, ACCE received a letter from Gary Greve saying that he
wanted a "time out" in the relationship -- I think this is what you tell two year olds -- and proposing a facilitator be brought in.
But ACCE has seen no need for a facilitator, since a constructive process for exchanging information was already supposed to
Instead, what has happened is that BP and ACCE have come to the table as a result of ACCE's challenge to the butanediol, or
BDO, permit. The comments made by ACCE's consultant, after a thorough review of the permit, have led BP to consider
changes which would cut expected emissions by more than half. However, the issue of confidentiality, where the company is
claiming it can't provide information to the community, is a major sticking point in the negotiations. If the company had agreed
to a Good Neighbor process, and had been willing to openly exchange information about the permit in the first place, the BDO
permit would have undoubtedly been speeded up and a satisfactory resolution achieved.
In closing, I would like to suggest several concrete steps that BP could take which would go a long way toward demonstrating
that you really are committed to open-ness. I ask that you take these requests, which we will be making public, directly to Sir
John Browne and ask for a response by January 15, 1999.
First, at the state level, we request that BP become the first company in Ohio to pledge publicly that you will not hide
information about your environmental performance behind the shield of the audit privilege law and that you will support of a
repeal of this law in Ohio, Texas and other states where you do business. BP's policy commitment to health, safety and the
environment states, "Wherever we have control or influence we will openly report our performance, good and bad." You can
show that you mean it by abandoning your support for audit privilege laws.
Second, at the local level, BP should commit in earnest to a good neighbor process in Lima. One problem with discussions to
date has been the frequent changes of BP personnel involved. BP should identify a key leader who will sit down immediately
with ACCE and other interested citizens to craft a document that demonstrates what being a good neighbor really means.
There's no better way to find out what the true meaning of environmental justice is than to negotiate in good faith with your
Read the full speech online at http://www.ohiocitizen.org/campaigns/prevention/bpspeech.html
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