Revealing the Truth Behind Deepwater Horizon Litigation
The collection of documents known as “The BP Papers” are available here, and explained in detail. The Downs Law Group represents thousands of individuals throughout the Gulf States who were exposed to toxic chemicals released by BP during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and subsequent response efforts. These documents, obtained via Discovery (pre-trial civil procedure allowing the parties to obtain evidence from each other) allow people to see what is happening “behind the curtain” of secrecy that normally shrouds ongoing litigation.
These documents, which were previously designated by BP as “confidential” have, for the first time, been made available to the public, and will evidence the methods BP has used to “manufacture scientific doubt” and uncertainty. It is clear, through these documents, that BP has worked vigorously to downplay the harmful health effects of the Oil Spill to the public through various means. Here, you will find various emails, studies, reports, and memoranda to and from BP employees and BP-contractors that will collectively show BP’s “playbook.” Even now, BP continues to work one goal in mind since the day of the oil spill: to defend against future litigation by downplaying the potential health effects of the oil spill.
The Downs Law Group’s lawsuit against BP for the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster represents the first litigation that has uncovered evidence of long-term harm caused to people helping to clean up an oil spill. In keeping with the spirit of transparency and Florida State’s Sunshine in Litigation rules and laws, we are publishing documents that are unsealed in our lawsuit, in the hopes it will keep the public informed on important safety matters. We believe the courts belong to the public and everyone has the right to see this evidence of public hazard.
Please stay tuned as we will be updating this page regularly!
Read a collection of BP workers’ and contractors’ emails, studies, reports, and memos that together demonstrate the company’s “playbook” by viewing the linked documents below.
Title of Document: BP Scientific Literature Publication Tracker
Description: BP maintained a publication tracker that is an excel spreadsheet dated from early 2014. However, this 2014 date may be wrong as one note in the spreadsheet mentions activity in 2013. This publication tracker is an excel spreadsheet of studies that BP was apparently marshalling into scientific journals—studies that would be of benefit to BP with regards to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This tracker documents 9 steps in the process of publishing the 23 named studies, beginning with “paper submitted by author” and includes “final legal review” and “final bp approval.” After BP’s legal team reviewed the study and approved it, the next step states, “submitted to journal.”
Relevance: This publication tracker provides further evidence that BP was seeding the scientific literature with studies for legal purposes, not for purposes of science. BP tainted the scientific literature by funding and overseeing purportedly neutral or independent studies in support of its litigation defense. While the studies referenced in this “Publication Tracker” may acknowledge funding from BP, there is no disclosure that this paper was apparently legally reviewed, edited, and then approved by BP, before it had even been submitted to a journal.
Title of Document: ‘Chemical Exposure Data for Gulf Cleanup Workers Dangerously Deficient’ Email
Description: In the summer of 2010, BP exchanged communications containing a memorandum from an independent Certified Industrial Hygienist regarding obvious deficiencies in BP’s Industrial Hygiene (Worker Safety) monitoring and sampling. The “non-detections” that BP and its contractors found when monitoring for worker and community safety were relied on by BP, OSHA, and government agencies to make a “steady stream of sweeping reassurances that the air in the Gulf poses no health hazard to Gulf cleanup workers.” This BP email and memo highlights various reasons why BP’s worker sampling during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was flawed and biased.
Relevance: According to the document, chemical exposure sampling for Gulf Cleanup workers sampled too few chemicals, too few locations, too few number of number of workers, and sampling was poorly documented. Additionally, BP and OSHA did not provide enough information or data to show that the “worst exposures” (or worst-case exposures) to chemicals were sampled or ever accounted for. Additionally, the document demonstrates that BP misinterpreted the air sampling to mean that the air quality in the Gulf of Mexico was safe for workers, everywhere, at all times. BP knew or should have known based on this document that its chemical exposure monitoring program was not only flawed but “dangerously deficient.”
Title of Document: Exponent Authored DWH Publications
Description: In late 2015, BP documented a list of 16 studies that Exponent proposed publishing to help BP deal with environmental problems from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Several examples from this proposal below:
“Paper is related to one that will flow out of GOMRI,” states one proposed Exponent study. GOMRI is an independent group of researchers studying the BP oil spill. This shows that BP was carefully tracking GOMRI studies as they were being developed to either counter or support them.
“Key strategic paper that will present an empirical model and results as applied to DWHOS as an alternative to SIMAP,” states another proposed Exponent study. SIMAP is modeling system that simulates oil spills and evaluate spill responses and impacts, and is used by various government agencies. Exponent’s proposed research could be used to counter government models.
“The importance of examining alternative causes to observed environmental effects after oil spills,” states another proposed Exponent study. Several studies published by Exponent helped BP point away from their own oil as the reason for environmental harm.
“This paper will illustrate, through a review of the key sea turtle stressors, that at any given time and place multiple stressors are influencing sea turtles in the Gulf,” states another proposed Exponent paper. By magnifying other environmental stressors, BP could downplay the harms to sea turtles caused by BP fossil fuels.
This document implies that BP planned to use Exponent studies to advance their scientific agenda to downplay the harms of spilled oil or buttress studies that supported their legal goals. Exponent provided these services in the past for Exxon Mobil.
For example, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, Exxon sponsored dozens of Exponent studies. This included a study titled, “Are Sea Otters Still Being Exposed to Subsurface Intertidal Oil Residues from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill?” Exponent’s study alleged that sea otters were not dying from oil poisoning as Exxon’s oil was not found where they fed. A subsequent study found that Exxon’s oil was in the area otters were feeding
Title of Document: Internal Communication ‘re: BP’s Dangerously Deficient Chemical Exposure Data’
Description: Independent industrial hygienists were reviewing the same publicly available data and raising the alarm that the data was “dangerously deficient” and drawing attention to the number of Benzene and Corexit (2-Butoxy ethanol) samples that were exceeding occupation exposure limits.
Relevance: BP has faced serious criticism since 2010 from independent industrial hygienists regarding how BP’s “chemical exposure air sampling data [is] incomplete, unrepresentative, poorly documented, untimely, and misinterpreted.” However, to date, BP and BP’s experts ask the court to blindly accept their monitoring Data, making claims that the data is the “best in the world.” The underestimations in the data, combined with the lack of transparency in the BP’s publicly available data, has prevented critics from validating the data BP’s experts rely on in their court filings to date.
Title of Document: Bea Strong Email – “Where were these samples taken?”
Description: Email from BP’s Manager of Regulatory Affairs questioning how Exponent’s samples taken in Bon Secour could be “very clean,” when he was personally out at Bon Secour and what he observed was “definitely oil.” He questions whether Exponent took the samples “directly behind a Beach Tech or similar mechanical sifting machine.”
Relevance: Even BP’s own internal communications show that BP employees questioned how Exponent–a consulting firm hired to help collect sampling in preparation for defense in future litigation–was conveniently not detecting oil where oil was visible. BP’s own admissions in this document questioning Exponent’s sampling raise major concerns regarding all of Exponent’s Deepwater Horizon sampling efforts. These clean samples, in areas where oil was visible, evidence Exponent’s attempts to under-report the chemical exposures clean-up workers and the community actually faced.
Title of Document: Hammer Environmental Context for Industry
Description: Email from Exponent’s Vice President informing BP that “[w]hat is needed (needed by the industry) is to hammer on the environmental context and how, even if you believe the lab data, the PAH concentrations seldom get high enough to cause any effect and if they do, the duration is very short.”
Relevance: This document provides further evidence that BP’s contractors actively focused on publications in the “environmental” context because it was better for “industry”. Exponent was directing BP to downplay the impacts to the environment of high PAH exposure due to the “short duration” of exposure. Despite high PAH concentrations, it was better for industry “to hammer on the environmental context,” rather than presumably, evaluate the human health concerns.
Title of Document: Pulling The Industrial Hygiene Monitoring Plug
Description: Three months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April, 20, 2010, a BP industrial hygienist sent BP officials a July 31email with the subject “Pulling The IH [industrial hygiene] Monitoring Plug.” BP officials discussed industrial hygiene operations to protect cleanup workers as more of a “political/public relations decision.” The email was addressed to a BP executive who was in Alabama as “Mobile’s Deputy Incident Command Chief” although a LinkedIn account now lists his title as “Crisis Management at BP America.” BP officials discussed facing the same safety dilemma in the 2005 Texas City explosion disaster but wrote that monitoring “adds value in the eyes of public perception” and in “defending potential future litigation.”
Relevance: This email string provides further evidence that scientific monitoring to protect worker safety may have been for public relations and litigation purposes. The fact that the BP official in charge of Mobile handles crisis management for BP lends further credence to this opinion. After the BP’s 2005 Texas City explosion—which CNN reported left 15 people dead—an email surfaced in a lawsuit in which BP discussed the heavy loss of life, but that media coverage would disappear over the weekend.
Title of Document: Shoreline Cleanup Training Modules
Description: These documents are two examples of Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) training courses that BP gave to its clean-up workers prior to sending them out during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. As is typical with many dangerous work environments, Oil Spill clean-up workers during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill were required to take various HSE training courses prior to starting their first day of work. These HSE Training courses were intended to educate workers on the types of dangers they may be exposed to during their clean-up work. According to these training modules, shoreline cleanup workers would only work with weathered oil, which no longer released volatile components. Similarly, exposure to dispersants was “very unlikely,” and there are “no ingredients [in dispersants] that cause long-term health effects.”
Relevance: BP misrepresented the type of harm response workers were truly facing and misdirected their attention to lesser dangers, such as heat exhaustion and dangerous wildlife. BP even went as far as to state that exposure to dispersants would be the same as “exposure to any mild detergent” and “dispersants used in the Gulf have no ingredients that cause long-term health effects, including cancer.” Further, BP actively trained shoreline clean-up workers to believe that they would not need breathing protection because they were only exposed to weathered oil. The information in the training module stands directly against a universe of scientific literature regarding the harmful effects of exposure to oil. In fact, many clean-up workers relied on these representations from BP to the point that they did not associate their health conditions to their exposure during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill until many years after they developed their medical conditions.
Title of Document: Exponent Retainer
Description: On May 20, 2010, Boehm signed an agreement with Arnold and Porter to work on behalf of BP Exploration. That agreement concerned natural resource damages (NRD) potentially arising out of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Potentially adverse parties named in the contract signed by Boehm included: Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. BP hired Paul Boehm and others with the consulting firm Exponent to help them defend future legal matters involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Relevance: BP hired contractors to generate sampling data and publish scientific literature used to promote their defense. After signing the contracting agreement with BP Exploration, Boehm gave presentations at scientific conferences and published research in peer reviewed journals on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that contained no disclosure of the following: Boehm was a contractor retained to defend and advocate for BP; Boehm’s work on Deepwater Horizon matters was property of BP Exploration and “Works Made for Hire”; Boehm’s contract with BP legally restrained him from “any activities that are adverse to the interests of BP Exploration or Arnold & Porter’s representation” on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill “even after termination of your consulting work.”