Riding the BP Gravy Train


As Mac McClelland reported recently from the Gulf, many of those most affected by the oil spill are still waiting for compensation. But it appears that some folks have benefited from the ordeal. From the Associated Press:

In sleepy Ocean Springs, Miss., reserve police officers got Tasers. The sewer department in nearby Gulfport bought a $300,000 vacuum truck that never sucked up a drop of oil. Biloxi, Miss., bought a dozen SUVs. A parish president in Louisiana got herself a deluxe iPad, her spokesman a $3,100 laptop. And a county in Florida spent $560,000 on rock concerts to promote its oil-free beaches.

In every case, communities said the new, more powerful equipment was needed to deal at least indirectly with the spill.

In many instances, though, the connection between the spill and the expenditures was remote, and lots of money wound up in cities and towns little touched by the goo that washed up on shore, the AP found in records requested from more than 150 communities and dozens of interviews.

Last summer, BP agreed to direct millions of dollars to Gulf states so they could entice tourists to their beaches despite the spill. Florida got a $32 million grant, and as the AP reports, some of that money went to counties that never saw any oil. In Florida a county commissioner’s girlfriend opened a public relations firm after the spill and then landed thousands of dollars in contracts from the county.

As of last month, the company had paid $754 million to state and local governments. On Monday, BP and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced another $30 million grant to the state to promote tourism. I’m all for BP compensating governments and individuals for the damage, but how effectively the funds are used is also subject to the limitations of government propriety.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.