Poisoned Legacy: The Human Cost of BP's Rise to Power

Mike Magner, Author
Mike Magner. St. Martin's, $27.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-312-55494-1
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 06/01/2011
Paperback - 417 pages - 978-1-250-00739-1
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-250-00082-8
Open Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-4299-6218-6
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Last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill was but one blowout amid a gusher of corporate misdeeds, according to this exposé of the British oil giant. Journalist Magner gives a comprehensive rundown of the Gulf oil well explosion and leak, and of the rushed scheduling, substandard engineering, skipped tests, and faulty equipment that precipitated that disaster. That's just the capstone of his detailed account of BP's misadventures in North America, which include a 2005 explosion at the company's Texas refinery that killed 15 people, a 200,000-gallon leak from a corroded Alaskan oil pipeline, a steady drip of workplace accidents, fatalities, and pollution violations and a drumbeat of callow apologies, lawsuits, fines, and criminal probes. The author fingers a callous corporate culture that sacrificed safety to profits: one BP cost-benefit memo he cites used a cartoon of the Three Little Pigs to justify the trade-off between human lives and expensive safety precautions. Magner sometimes overstates his case; his account of a lawsuit by a Kansas town against BP over a shuttered refinery, for example, insinuates more than it demonstrates about the dangers of long-buried toxic waste. Still, he presents a lucid, hard-hitting indictment of BP's ingrained greed and irresponsibility. (June)
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