BP: Beyond the Pale

In 2000, British Petroleum adopted a new “green” public relations strategy, changing their slogan to “Beyond Petroleum” and their logo to an environmentally friendly flower image. The BBC called it “part of a rebranding exercise [“¦] which the company hopes will boost profits.” Six years later, BP’s profits are surging (up 25 percent last year to $22 billion), but its self-created image as a “force for good” is taking a beating – and deservedly so.

The Wall Street Journal today reports that BP is facing criminal investigations into both its environmental and labor practices:

On the environment:

U.S. environmental regulators are conducting a criminal investigation into BP PLC’s management of pipelines in Alaska’s North Slope, according to people familiar with the matter, adding to mounting regulatory scrutiny of the British energy titan’s U.S. operations.

These people said the investigation, which has been under way for several months by officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, was expanded to include an early March spill of an estimated 134,000 to 267,000 gallons of crude from a BP-operated pipeline at Prudhoe Bay. Alaska state conservation officials say the pipeline ruptured from internal corrosion, causing what is considered the largest oil spill ever in the energy-rich North Slope.

And worker safety:

The North Slope allegations come as U.S. investigators continue to pore over details of an explosion last year at the company’s Texas City plant, which killed 15 and triggered a $21.3 million fine from workplace-safety regulators. The Labor Department referred the case to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges.

For BP, it isn’t easy being green.