BP Shouldn’t Complain About “Barriers to Access”

By Beacon Staff

London’s The Guardian newspaper (June 11, 2004) gave extensive ink to the words of Tony Hayward, CEO of BP-Global. This is the same BP-Global that intends to develop coal bed methane (CBM) just north of the U.S.-Canada border at the Flathead/Elk River divide near Fernie, B.C. Out of self-interest, we should pay attention to what Mr. Hayward has to say.

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Hayward in London at the BP annual shareholder meeting in April while representing the Flathead Coalition. While Mr. Hayward is an undoubtedly brilliant man, we needn’t take everything he says as the gospel truth, or that what’s good for Mr. Hayward (BP) might be good for us downstream of one of his projects.

I wish to make two points. 1) Local citizens north and south of the border have challenged BP’s Mist Mountain CBM Project in B.C. to ensure that if it does go forward that it does so without damaging water quality or international wildlife populations. And, 2) if BP can’t meet that challenge they should withdraw voluntarily or not be granted the government permits to exploit the CBM.

Mr. Hayward said in The Guardian, “…while resources are not a constraint globally [there’s plenty of oil/gas in the ground], the resources within reach of private investment by companies like BP are limited.”

He went on to say, “Political factors, barriers to entry, and high taxes all play a role here. In other words when it comes to producing more oil, the problems are above ground, not below it. They are not geological, but political.”

Fortunately for Mr. Hayward, BP has met local people expressing concern for their local drinking water and backyard wildlife. That is, local citizens taking local issues seriously.

Mr. Hayward shouldn’t be complaining about ‘barriers to access.’ He should be demonstrating that he’s listening and committed to doing the right thing, even if that means not tapping CBM resources that would cause irreversible harm.

Almost three months ago the Flathead Coalition wrote BP-Canada’s CEO, Randy McLeod, requesting documentation showing that the company is complying with its own environmental review process. BP has not provided a single document that substantiates its compliance.

In a world where local people grow daily more concerned with environmental degradation and rising gas and oil prices, BP should make sure they operate openly and forthrightly.

In a world where the remaining oil and gas resources lie under our last wild, treasured places, BP needs to demonstrate that they’re listening and have the capability to do no harm. Otherwise, those pesky local politicians – the local citizens – exercising their right to protect local water and wildlife will remain a “barrier to access.”

David Hadden is president of the Flathead Coalitio, and director of Headwaters Montana, a member organization. Civic and business groups interested in joining the Flathead Coalition may contact Hadden at [email protected] or 406-837-0783.