JUNE 7, 2012
Not that we were expecting better, but BP is using the court system to harass two scientists who have been studying BP's massively destructive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Richard Camilli and Christopher Reddy, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, volunteered after the spill to use robots to help determine how much oil was being spilled.
After giving BP more than 50,000 pages of their research, the scientists were stunned by the Big Oil giant's demand for their personal, confidential communication about the research. BP then convinced a court to demand Camilli and Reddy turn over more than 3,000 personal emails, which the two scientisits reluctantly handed over last week.
Camilli and Reddy -- like any scientists would be -- were reticent to release their private notes because they contain scientific deliberations that BP or others might misuse.
"Incomplete thoughts and half-finished documents attached to emails can be taken out of context and impugned by people who have a motive for discrediting the findings," Camilli and Reddy wrote in the Boston Globe. "In addition to obscuring true scientific findings, this situation casts a chill over the scientific process. In future crises, scientists may censor or avoid deliberations, and more importantly, be reluctant to volunteer valuable expertise and technology that emergency responders don't possess."
BP told the pair that they wanted the emails "to better understand our findings because billions of dollars in fines are potentially at stake."
Said another way, BP is looking for anything that could reduce its financial liability for the disaster, which has wreaked havoc on the Gulf.
"Our concern is not simply invasion of privacy, but the erosion of the scientific deliberative process," they wrote. "Open, scientific deliberation is critical to science. It needs to be protected in a way that maintains transparency in the scientific process, but also avoids unnecessary intrusions that stifle research vital to national security and economic interests."
The sad thing is that taxpayers indirectly subsidize BP's legal efforts through the billions of dollars we give them in subsidies and tax breaks. While we might not be able to stop them from demanding scientists' notes and emails, we can end the Big Oil Bonanza by demanding Congress pass the End Polluter Welfare Act. Sign here to let congress know you want to end this massive waste of tax dollars.