FU/BP, or How to Handle PR After an Environmental Catastrophe, Hayward Style

A BP primer in public relations:

Step 1: Underestimate the amount of oil being released into the Gulf. Rinse and repeat, over and over and over again.

Step 2: Defend your company's safety record leading up to the disaster, despite the fact that your company has been charged with the highest number of "egregious and willful" safety violations during the past five years--a total of 760 violations. Definitely do not point out that that the second-highest number of violations during that time period was eight. That's right--760 violations by BP. Eight by Sunoco and Conoco-Phillips.

Step 3: Have your CEO go on television and say something incredibly callous to imply how hard all of this is on him: "The first thing to say is I'm sorry," Hayward said. "We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused their lives. There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back."

Step 4: Bus in 400 extra workers to help in the cleanup along Louisiana's coastal beaches. Conveniently schedule those workers to arrive on the same day as President Obama; then say that the scheduling of the extra workers (who were there only on the day of the President's visit and then all vanished) was just a crazy coincidence. Bonus points if the beaches where oil has made landfall are all nice and clean for the national press corps reporting on the Presidential visit and thereby give the impression that "Hey, this oil spill really isn't all that bad! See how clean the beaches are? There's hardly any oil anywhere!"

Step 5: Deny the findings of several independent studies performed, as well as video evidence, which document that gigantic underwater plumes of oil mixed with toxic dispersant, some of which are as large as 22 miles long, are forming under the surface waters of the Gulf, most likely killing anything they come in contact with.

Step 6: Refuse to provide the workers who are cleaning up the oil spill (many of whom are fishermen who were put out of work by BP) with masks to protect them from toxic fumes. Then, when workers begin to get sick, trot out your CEO again and have him speculate that the nose bleeds, headaches, and other symptoms displayed by cleanup workers are the result of food poisoning.

Step 7: When given the chance, choose cost savings over worker safety. Bonus points if you compare your workers to the Three Little Pigs.

Step 8: Just copy and paste your Gulf Coast emergency response plan from one of the old ones you have laying around. Let's face it--you can be pretty sure that the Minerals Management Service won't actually read it and discover that some of the details in your plan are a bit off, like why the list of animals that will be affected could include sea lions and walruses, who have somehow managed to migrate into the Gulf from the much coooler waters they normally live in, and/or that your emergency equipment provider is actually a Japanese home shopping site.

Step 9: Make sure and tell everyone how hard it is to stop an oil spill that's 5,000 feet below the surface. Make sure not to tell the public that the same techniques you're trying to use (and failing with) now in 5,000 feet of water didn't work 30 years ago in 200 feet of water, either.

Step 10: Profit.

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