March 2005: The Texas City, Texas refinery of BP sustains an explosion that kills 15 workers and injures 170. An investigation discovers the company ignored its safety protocols and disabled its warning system. The company pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and was fined more than $50 million by the EPA. The Chemical Safety Board's report of the incident provided that BP's managers were stamped with a "cultural issue" that posed "an immediate hazard" to safety.

July 2005: Thunder Horse, BP's $1 billion development in the Gulf of Mexico, listed due to design and engineering problems.

March 2006: 267,000 gallons of crude oil leaded out of a 34 inch pipe maintained by BP in Alaska.

August 2006: 4,800 barrels of oil spread into the Alaskan snow through corroded pipe in BP pipeline in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. BP had been warned to check the pipe in 2002, but didn't. A congressional committee found that "draconian" cost-saving measures led the company to undertake short-cuts in its operations, after hearing this testimony from a former BP engineer: "There is no doubt that cost-cutting and profits have taken precedence over safety and the environment."

April 2010: The Deepwater Horizon explodes. "It's not BP's role to oversee the safety of the rig," says the company's spokesman while not-so-subtly pointing the finger at Transocean. Yet, on Friday, BP's CEO told Reuters that the company is "taking full responsibility for the spill and we will clean it up, and where people can present legitimate claims for damages we will honor them. We are going to be very, very aggressive in all of that."

Catch that? It's not our fault, but we'll pay "legitimate claims." We'll see. The Exxon Valdez case resulted in a $5 billion punitive award at trial, which was cut to a little more than $500 million by the Supreme Court.

Litigation over this blowout will almost certainly occur in Mississippi state and federal courts. We have punitive damages here too. BP is going to have a tough time making them seem illegitimate with its track record.


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