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"Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster" by Abrahm Lustgarten

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Run to failure: meaning operate your equipment (business) all out, don't bother to care for and maintain it (much less inspect it) properly — until everything has been pushed beyond its limits. To add insult to injury, ignore, and even penalize, your front-line people when they alert you to, or object to, the deliberate neglect.

Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, by Abrahm Lustgarten

A Gas Well Blowing Wild., Digital ID 95131, New York Public LibraryIt's been well over two years since the BP oil exploration rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and burned, an event that unleashed the most extensive oil spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico. That event has returned to the news recently with the criminal settlement and fining of BP as well as the indictment of two of the managers aboard the rig at the time of the explosion. (See references to some of these articles from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal at the end of this post).

Oil well just completed. Picture shows crude oil flowing over the top of derrick before closing of valve which directs flow into tanks., Digital ID 111774, New York Public LibraryAbrahm Lustgarten's recent book, Run to Failure, is the backstory on the Deepwater Horizon failure. It scathingly catalogs about two decades of oil drilling and refining disasters at BP facilities, focusing particularly on a continual string of operational calamaties in Alaska, and the devastating Texas City refinery explosion in 2005. It portrays the attempts of BP employees and contractors, and US Federal and Alaska regulators and inspectors, to alert the company to dangers; and BP management's pattern of ignoring or suppressing these warnings. In particular, it evidences a corporate culture more interested in appearances than in reality; eager to appear a good citizen while cramming problems and danger down to its operational managers and on its workers and contractors.

A Lake of Oil., Digital ID 120424, New York Public LibraryThe human and environmental cost of BP's "run to failure" of so many of its operations is disturbing in the extreme. This is not a book to cheer anyone up after a trying day. But it is a valuable read for its many lessons, including alerting us to the dangers of an institutional culture of denial.

Disclosure: Run to Failure has been nominated for a Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, which explains how I came to read it.

The following citations are to articles concerning recent developments in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. The links will work within any NYPL branch — you can also look for these on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal websites.

Pumping oil from the sea - oil wells in the surf of Summerland, California, U.S.A.,no. 768., Digital ID g89f364_060f, New York Public LibraryBP Will Plead Guilty and Pay Over $4 Billion: [Business/Financial Desk]
Krauss, Clifford; Schwartz, John. New York Times [New York, N.Y] 16 Nov 2012: A.1.

In BP Indictments, U.S. Shifts to Hold Individuals Accountable: [Business/Financial Desk]
Krauss, Clifford. New York Times [New York, N.Y] 16 Nov 2012: B.1.

Gulf Coast States at Odds On Penalties for Oil Spill: [Business/Financial Desk]
Robertson, Campbell. New York Times [New York, N.Y] 17 Nov 2012: B.1.

Despite U.S. Settlement, BP Faces Billions in Fines for Clean Water Act Violations: [Business/Financial Desk]
Reed, Stanley; Werdigier, Julia. New York Times [New York, N.Y] 17 Nov 2012: B.2.

BP Slapped With Record Fine --- Oil Giant to Pay $4.5 Billion, Plead Guilty to Criminal Charges in 2010 Gulf Spill
Fowler, Tom. Wall Street Journal [New York, N.Y] 16 Nov 2012: A.1.

Finally, some key articles about Deepwater Horizon by David Barstow, Investigative reporter for the New York Times and speaker here at SIBL for our Freedom of Information Day in March 2011.

Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours: [National Desk]
DAVID BARSTOW, DAVID ROHDE and STEPHANIE SAUL. New York Times [New York, N.Y] 26 Dec 2010: A.1.

Between Blast and Spill, One Last, Flawed Hope: [National Desk]
The New York Times. New York Times [New York, N.Y] 21 June 2010: A.1.