By Lauren | June 30, 2010
The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that the Interior Department has reportedly fined the U.S. unit of BP $5.2 million for submitting “false, inaccurate or misleading” reports regarding its energy production on Southern Ute Indian Tribal lands in Colorado. According to the Journal, the department alleges that tribal auditors found that BP reported incorrect royalty rates and prices, and inaccurately reported well production. Most troubling, the department alleges that BP promised repeatedly to correct its past errors but failed to do so, leading the department “to conclude that BP’s continued submission of erroneous reports was knowing or willful” according to Michael Bromwich, newly-appointed director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
No, this isn’t about the oil spill in the Gulf … which makes it all the more disturbing. Before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, BP routinely promoted itself as an ethical company concerned with the environment. If you believe that, it’s easier to see the Deepwater Horizon incident as a single, unfortunate accident. If BP routinely lies about its other energy production activities, however, its assurances about the Gulf spill becomes much less credible.
BP can challenge the department’s assessment through its internal hearing procedure. It will be interesting to see if the company chooses to fight, or simply to pay the fine and keep quiet. (After all, with billions in cleanup costs at stake in the Gulf, $5.2 million starts to look pretty paltry.) Failure to fight the fine might suggest that BP did, in fact, knowingly submit erroneous reports to Interior. And if the company has lied before, how credible are its assurances now that the Gulf oil spill will be cleaned up? We’ll have to wait and see.
To read the Journal article, click here.