While everyone concerned with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is pointing the finger at everyone else, it looks as though the company in charge of the well, British Petroleum, has a long time history of bad decisions with safety enforcement, with accidents and spills littering the record.

The New York Times article begins with an explosion in 2005, and continues from there, giving the reader a list of things many may not remember if they were not living in the region of this nation where the problems occurred. (You might say that keeping things quiet might be job one at BP.)

After BP’s Texas City, Tex., refinery blew up in 2005, killing 15 workers, the company vowed to address the safety shortfalls that caused the blast.

The next year, when a badly maintained oil pipeline ruptured and spilled 200,000 gallons of crude oil over Alaska’s North Slope, the oil giant once again promised to clean up its act.

In 2007, when Tony Hayward took over as chief executive, BP settled a series of criminal charges, including some related to Texas City, and agreed to pay $370 million in fines. “Our operations failed to meet our own standards and the requirements of the law,” the company said then, pledging to improve its “risk management.”

Despite those repeated promises to reform, BP continues to lag other oil companies when it comes to safety, according to federal officials and industry analysts. Many problems still afflict its operations in Texas and Alaska, they say. Regulators are investigating a whistle-blower’s allegations of safety violations at the Atlantis, one of BP’s newest offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now BP is in the spotlight because of the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 people and continues to spew oil into the ocean. It is too early to say what caused the explosion. Other companies were also involved, including Transocean, which owned and operated the drilling rig, and Halliburton, which had worked on the well a day before the explosion.

BP, based in London, has repeatedly asserted that Transocean was solely responsible for the accident.

However, lawmakers plan to question BP executives about their overall commitment to safety at Congressional hearings this week on the Gulf incident.

“It is a corporate problem,” said Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan, who has been particularly critical of BP’s operations in Alaska and will lead the House committee hearing, on Wednesday. “Their mentality is to get in the foxhole and batten down the hatch. It just seems there is this pattern.”

The oil industry is inherently more dangerous than many other industries, and oil companies, including BP, strive to reduce accidents and improve safety.

But BP, the nation’s biggest oil and gas producer, has a worse health, environment and safety record than many other major oil companies, according to Yulia Reuter, the head of the energy research team at RiskMetrics, a consulting group that assigns scores to companies based on their performance in various categories, including safety.

Strangely enough, the leader in safety is a company that had the currently biggest problem on record 21 years ago, Exxon-Mobil, with the Exxon Valdez incident. The article states that Exxon is the safety leader now, having learned their lesson well.

The article highlights a few other problems for BP, and makes a case that there needs to be more safety checking in place before huge problems occur, perhaps with a revamping of the approval process.

One thing not mentioned in this story, but mentioned widely in other articles is that companies operating in the U.S. are not required to have the same level of safety that is required by other nations, largely because of a set of changes pushed through by the former vice-president, Dick Cheney. As part of the business friendly measures that were being implemented by that administration, several safeguards were alleviated from the requirements.

The one thing that the experts agree would have prevented this disaster is one of those things removed from the must-have list on these wells.

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I’m a personality as well as an actress. Show me an actress who isn’t a personality, and you’ll show me a woman who isn’t a star.Katharine Hepburn

There’s hope for some of the Hollywood set yet!

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