BP’s rebuke


BP’s temporary suspension from federal contracts won’t bring back the 11 people who died in the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in 2010 — the worst oil spill in the nation’s history. Nor will its record $4.5 billion fine, or the billions of dollars in civil penalties expected to be assessed against the company.

But it’s to be hoped that the contract suspension announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against BP will make clear that worker safety and resource protection cannot be compromised for the sake of profits.

Four times in the past 12 years, BP was implicated in criminal conduct that could have led to a similar ban. In each case, the company paid fines and kept bidding on contracts by promising it would improve its operations. BP is one of the Pentagon’s largest fuel suppliers.

Rarely does a global corporation with BP’s political muscle get such a caustic rebuke. The EPA attributed the suspension to what it called BP’s “lack of business integrity.”

Belated as the sanctions may seem to thousands of Gulf Coast residents, they convey an important message for industry in the Great Lakes region and other parts of the United States. As BP’s oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico for weeks, many people, in this country and around the world, wondering who truly wields power in America.

BP says its suspension from domestic contracts will not affect its existing operations, including those at its Oregon refinery in suburban Toledo. BP runs the refinery in joint ownership with Husky.

The EPA suspension was announced the same day new drilling leases in the gulf went up for bid. BP was forced to sit that process out. It may lose $2.43 billion of contracts for military fuel.

With its rebuke of BP, the EPA is sending a message to big oil. Other industries need to hear it as well.