The Other Oil Giants? Just as Unready as BP

The Gulf of Mexico response plans of four of the five major oil companies discuss protecting walruses. No walruses live in the Gulf.On June 15, the CEOs of ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Chevron and BP were grilled by the House Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources. Unsurprisingly, much of what they said was spin. They paraded industry investments in alternative energy and safety that make up a vanishingly small percentage of their balance sheets. BP's competitors claimed again and again that they would never have made the catastrophic mistakes that led to the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon. But the hearing's scariest moment came when Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told the truth. Tillerson stated that when oil spills occur "there will be impacts." According to ExxonMobil, the cleanup effort launched by BP represents the best efforts of the oil companies. For the oil companies, this travesty is the cutting edge of safety and environmental protection.

Same Plan, Different Covers

The major oil companies have essentially identical regional response plans for a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. These 500+ page plans have been approved by the Department of the Interior and outline how each company would try to stop a leak and would clean up the oil. According to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), in the June 15 hearing the plans are ninety percent identical. All five plans were prepared by "The Response Group." All five refer to the same contractors for clean-up and the same sources of equipment. The covers even feature the same photographs of oil wells, although The Response Group did tint the covers a different color for each company.

Protecting Walruses, But Not the Gulf

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with oil companies planning a similar response to similar disasters. If Chevron knows how to stop environmental and economic disaster, by all means it should let Shell know. The problem is that all the 'cookie-cutter plans' for the Gulf feature laughable errors and have been proven ineffective by the Deepwater Horizon spill. Four of the five regional response plans discuss the protection of walruses, mammals that have not lived in the Gulf for three million years. Three of the plans refer readers to the phone number of an expert who died in 2005.

Even worse, the plans claim that the companies have the capacity to deal with a "worst case scenario," a disaster dumping substantially more oil into the Gulf than the Deepwater Horizon spill. The residents of the Gulf Coast know all too well that BP's plan has failed utterly to protect their environment and their livelihoods from Horizon. It seems that the oil companies have very low standards for what constitutes adequate disaster response.

What Are the Oil Giants Ready For?

As ExxonMobil's Tillerson admitted, "we are not well-equipped" to deal with offshore disasters. One might question whether the oil companies are well-equipped for drilling in general if they cannot stop the failure of an exploratory well from spiraling into a national catastrophe.

There is one task for which ExxonMobil is very well-equipped. Unlike their competitors, ExxonMobil's regional response plan includes forty-pages on media response. Exxon may not be prepared to deal with a disaster. They may not be able to drill for oil without endangering the health and safety of millions. But they are ready to spin.


Even when BP spends Billions for cleaning up this unfortunate scenario the taxpayers will still pay in the end. By paying more at the pump. The real losers are the wildlife and the ocean.

- Four of the five regional response plans discuss the protection of walruses, mammals that have not lived in the Gulf for three million years? - this is ridiculous! I tread also that although Response Group has operations in at least 7 cities nationwide, the Houston-based firm's Web site says the company has about 35 employees. (One current assignment: calling 50,000 people who have visited BP offices and getting their e-mail addresses and emergency contact information)...

I wouldn't mind them having the same response plan, if it were actually effective. This isn't a new issue, I remember Florida PIRG 20 years ago campaigning against offshore oil drilling... why aren't there stricter laws to prevent this kind of thing from happening? We're poisoning everything that's supposed to sustain/nourish US. It's ridiculous.

Some guidelines should be brought into enforce the environment safety not only in offshore oil drilling but also other such entities.

After reading this you have to wonder if anyone vets, or even reads, these response plans. From what's written above, a cursory glance at these documents would have raised questions as to the qualifications of the plan's author, not to mention the guidelines laid out in the plan itself. Truly baffling.

The fact that many of these companies don't have a suitable response plan is very disheartening. I mean, really? REALLY? Come on world; get it together.

The major oil companies have essentially identical regional response plans for a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico - cut & paste then. Makes you wonder who in these organisations is really responsible for this and whether they're just paying lip service (or brochure service). ExxonMobil’s regional response plan includes forty-pages on media response - all spin and no action!

I laughed many times when reading this interesting article, you would think that the oil companies would get the clean up facts correct. This does make me think what else have they missed. I watched a Panorama - BP in Deep Water program on the BBC last night. Some of the remarks made by current and past employees of the company may well create problems for BP in the future. American law makers have also to carry some of the blame for this, as they must have passed the plans and created the necessary safety protocols that they felt were necessary.

And here we go - here is the way to new disaster opens. Why don't they start develop new jobs in solar panels industry, or start building geothermal stations? No - the easy way, take the ban off, and here we go - there is no problem, everyone is happy... Until another environmental disaster.