BP’s money muzzles scientists researching Gulf oil spill

BP is flexing its monetary muscle in what looks like an effort to control research on the Gulf oil spill.  Climate Progress reports,

Scientists from Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and Texas A&M have “signed contracts with BP to work on their behalf in the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process” that determines how much ecological damage the Gulf of Mexico region is suffering from BP’s toxic black tide.

The Mobile Press-Register learned that the contract “prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.”  In addition, they can only carry out research that BP approves.  Despite these restrictions, the deal is lucrative; several scientists said that the oil company offered them $250 an hour.

Robert Wygul, an environmental lawyer who reviewed BP’s contract said,

“This is not an agreement to do research for BP.  This is an agreement to join BP’s legal team. You agree to communicate with BP through their attorneys and to take orders from their attorneys.”

So BP is recruiting scientists to help them fight the federal lawsuit resulting from the oil spill.  But these experts are not just paid for their service — they are also paid for their silence.  George Crozier, head of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, was approached by BP.  He said:

“It makes me feel like they were more interested in making sure we couldn’t testify against them than in having us testify for them.”

If you’ve read Climate Cover-Up, you know that paying off scientists is nothing new for the oil industry’s disinformation machine.  It will be interesting to see whether oil-friendly scientific reports start popping up.  After all, if you’re paying scientists to keep quiet, why not also buy some custom-tailored research while you’re at it?  Actually, BP has already set up a Gulf Research Initiative to distribute $500 million in research grants.

Scientists are reportedly accepting BP’s offer due to a scarcity of federal funding for their studies.  By now, Congress probably feels like a rich parent with a bunch of kids, all asking for money.  But if the government would sponsor the research needed in the Gulf, it really would lessen the conflict-of-interest problem.  Our government is, at least, supposed to answer to the people.  But we all know that BP is only loyal to its own bottom line.

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