BP Should Stand for "Banned Permanently"

05/18/2010 01:55 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The initials BP used to stand for British Petroleum, but like Kentucky Fried Chicken they changed their name to improve their image. Apparently, "Petroleum," like the word "Fried," connoted a company too oily for American tastes.

Here is my suggestion: from now on, as far as the U.S. Congress and the American taxpayer are concerned, BP should stand for "Banned Permanently."

Today I wrote a letter that I hope all of my colleagues in the House will co-sign with me. It is addressed to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and demands that he suspend consideration of any new oil drilling leases for BP and review all existing leases to evaluate compliance with basic worker safety and environmental safety regulations and, if they fail to be found in compliance, immediately suspend those leases.

We are almost a month into the worst man-made environmental and economic disaster in American history, and BP has acted more interested in finger-pointing and damage control than in immediately solving the environmental disaster they caused and which cost eleven lives.

But an environmental disaster -- and one that costs lives -- is par for the course when it comes to BP. Fifteen deaths and almost 200 injured in the Texas City refinery explosion, convictions for environmental and safety violations -- including felonies -- for BP and subsidiaries, the biggest ever fine for willful work safety violations in U.S. history, countless other complaints, and now revelations that serious short-cuts were apparently taken concerning safety and maintenance procedures for platforms like the one that exploded in the Gulf. You would think that a company with this track record would stop and think and adjust their business plan for a moment there. But not BP. They are very focused on the bottom line. Their bottom line is not the safety of the bottom of the ocean. Their bottom line is not the lives lost when their rig sank to the bottom of the ocean. No, their bottom line is the safety of their profits.

The president has used tough words and Secretary Salazar is pledging to get to the bottom of what happened and what BP can do now to clean up the disaster and compensate the families who lost loved ones or lost livelihoods due to BP's mistakes. But I want to take this a step further: Prove to the American people you have changed your ways, BP, before we even consider another license from the American people to make astronomical profits from our oil.

After hearing the buzz words of "Too Big To Fail" and Drill, Baby, Drill," we need Congress to stand up and say "enough," "ya basta." BP should be Banned Permanently because they are too failed to be big.

BP's estimated $62 million in profits per day, their record-setting $16 million in paid lobbyists, and a Texas swagger and disregard for human life are what we expect from Halliburton (another culprit in this disaster), but not a venerable British corporation. It leads me to conclude the Miami Herald is right when they say, "A review of BP's history...shows a pattern of ethically questionable and illegal behavior that goes back decades."

According to the New York Times, the Minerals Management Service reports that between 1996 and 2009, BP-operated rigs spilled 7,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico--or about 14% of the amount spilled by any company. Instead of learning from its mistakes and adopting measures to prevent future industrial disasters, BP continues to put its workers, the public, and the environment at risk in favor of higher profits. Indeed, BP's record may indicate a worsening and devolving culture of profit-motivated negligence.

And yet, as Newsweek reports, every time our regulators and prosecutors have come close to nailing BP for their disregard for our laws, they have escaped with a slap on the wrist.

Let's turn that slap on the wrist into a slap in their wallet -- the only place it hurts them -- and take steps to suspend BP's profiting off of the generosity -- and oil reserves -- of the American people. I hope my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives join me in asking Secretary Salazar to act and act quickly.