ABC, NBC Drill BP on Pipeline Corrosion
Greedy BP (NYSE: BP) skimped on maintenance to make even more money, charged liberal critics of the oil industry on the August 8 âWorld News with Charles Gibsonâ and âNightly News.â Yet NBCâs Lisa Myers and ABCâs Betsy Stark focused on the complaints of those liberal critics without airing out BPâs defense, even though the company explained its pipeline maintenance program the day before in a news conference.
âIn the last five years,â complained Stark, BP earned $63 billion in profits, sending back $51 billion to shareholders âthrough buybacks and dividend payouts, but just $1.5 billionâ to maintain the Prudhoe Bay oil field.
Yet Stark didnât bring out an expert to explain just how much BP should spend on maintenance. Instead the ABC reporter aired a sound bite from Tyson Slocum of the liberal advocacy group Public Citizen to repeat the charge that BP âmay be skimping on investing in preventative maintenance.â
Over on NBC, reporter Lisa Myers included âChuck Hamel, a longtime nemesis of the oil companies and advocate for oil workers,â to charge that BP was âplaying Russian rouletteâ with pipeline maintenance.
Hamel, like Slocum, opposes drilling in ANWR. But Hamelâs anti-industry allegations have not always borne out under investigation.
âThe Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has concluded an evaluation of allegations by Chuck Hamel that unreported North Slope well blowouts occurred in December 2004 and July 2003, and has concluded that there were no unreported blowouts,â reported PetroleumNews.com on Feb. 11, 2005.
Absent from both NBC and ABC coverage were any spokesmen from BP to explain or defend the companyâs policies. Yet the day before, the company had held a news conference where officials explained their pipeline maintenance policies.
At an August 7 news conference in Anchorage, Alaska, BP Alaskan exploration management team leader Bill Hedges told reporters that the corroded pipeline had not been checked since 1992 because the company believed the low-pressure pipes were at minimal risk.
âThe logic at the time will have been along the lines of that the fluids going into the line are notionally very clean,â said Hedges, adding that water, sediments and gas were already removed from the oil before it was put in the pipeline. âIt is clean, sales spec crude that goes into the line. We normally would regard those as low risk. Clearly, that was a false assumption that we need to reinvestigate,â admitted Hedges.
In the same press conference, BPâs president of Alaskan oil exploration, Steve Marshall, argued that the company was not derelict in surveying the pipeline for corrosion. âIn the early 90s as Bill [Hedges] described it, pigging was found to be difficult because of the amount of scale and solids,â said Marshall, referring to sending a probe called a âpigâ down pipelines to detect corrosion.
âWhat we did have was a regular program of ultra sonic surveys to determine the condition of the lines. We believe that would have been an acceptable and adequate replacement. Particularly given that most of these lines are above ground,â Marshall noted, quickly adding that âin hindsight, our program was insufficient and will be rectified going forward.â
Hedges also told reporters $72 million was budgeted in 2006 alone for BPâs corrosion treatment program, a figure left out of both news reports.
On the August 8 âGood Morning America,â ABC finance expert Mellody Hobson did share with viewers BPâs side of the story. âTo BPâs credit, earlier this year they pledged to spend $7 billion on shoring up their infrastructure and looking at maintenance and safety,â Hobson noted. She explained that the oil company didnât have money to put into infrastructure until recently, and even then âdidnât want to risk any slowdown in production.â