As BP Tar Balls Litter Gulf Coast, Oil Giant Sells Off Gulf Of Mexico Assets

It’s been a little over two weeks since Hurricane Isaac struck the Gulf Coast, leaving flooding and wind damage in its wake. But one of the side effects of the storm that has gone largely under-reported are the tar balls that are now littering beaches all along the Gulf Coast.

Beaches from Louisiana to Florida have seen the toxic, sticky tar balls rolling in with the surf, and while some have questioned whether the tar balls are actually from BP’s Macondo well blowout, Auburn University researchers have confirmed today that they are a match.

The tar balls began washing up only days after the U.S. Department of Justice released a memo blaming BP’s gross negligence for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 men and subsequently caused close to 5 million gallons of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

In the wake of the DOJ’s accusations, and the continuous presence of tar balls that are linked directly back to BP’s negligence, it comes as no surprise that the oil giant has decided to sell off billions of dollars worth of their assets in the Gulf of Mexico.

From The Washington Post about the asset sale:

The latest sale leaves BP close to its $38 billion goal for divestments to settle claims linked to the spill, part of a program that will leave the London-based oil giant more streamlined but still in possession of its best prospects for growth and most profitable assets. BP chief executive Bob Dudley said in a statement that the sales were “consistent with our strategy of playing to our strengths.”

The sale comes at a very significant time, as the tar balls washing up onshore are a constant reminder to all of us along the Gulf Coast of the disaster that happened a few years ago, and we also remember who is responsible.

But it also allows the company to have the best of both worlds – selling off smaller, less-valuable wells in order to pay claims from their negligence, while at the same time keeping their profitable wells in operation.

The public gets the impression that BP is mostly leaving the Gulf of Mexico, breathes a sigh of relief, but the reality is that little will change as a result of these sales.

Earlier this year, BP and plaintiff’s attorneys reached a settlement of close to $8 billion to settle claims against the company from residents and business owners across the coast. The sale is an attempt to help offset the costs of these settlements, as well as the potential $21 billion in state lawsuits and federal fines that the company is still staring down.

However, the $5.5 billion worth of assets being sold is a paltry amount, considering the fact that the company still pulled in a profit of $26 billion in 2011 alone. But again, the sale gives residents along the coast, and elsewhere in the country, the false impression that BP is attempting to “leave the Gulf,” and raise money to pay off their assets.

Those of us who are paying attention are fully aware that BP is not hurting for cash, and they have absolutely no plans to leave the Gulf of Mexico alone. Neither do the tar balls washing up on our shores.