BP’s (not really) Top Secret Oil Spill Command Post

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July 24, 2010

Top Secret BP building

So, just how transparent is BP with online media?

Today the third set of Deepwater Horizon hearings came to a conclusion when, unexpectedly, an e-mail message came through “Your Flight has been delayed to 10pm”. So, I decided to pay a surprise visit to BP’s Incident Command Post (ICP). Sure I could have called ahead, but I didn’t want a media tour. No, I wanted to investigated how busy the place was on a Friday night. I wanted to see the stack of coffee cups, broken pencils and other archaeological remnants of human activity.

So, In a brand new (rented) Dodge Charger I made a quick search for the BP ICP address on my iPhone, plugged it into the GPS and, 50 minutes later, pulled off the highway to be greeted by a large and modern complex of buildings with a huge, illuminated BP logo. This must be the place! …right?

Pulling up to the parking lot I was greeted by a young and cheerful security guard who took my ID, asked me to pull around to let traffic by, and proceeded to call his Lieutenant. Then a golf cart zoomed my way to lead me to the best parking space at the main entrance. A welcoming smile, prime parking and hope for the kind of transparency that journalists pine for… I was truly impressed and wondered to myself how BP could possible get so much bad press considering they where being so open and honest. but then the Lieutenant arrived.

Have you ever stopped to make an honest inquiry about the legality of, say, jaywalking, only to be faced by a cop who has no desire to answer questions but is clear in his intent to remove you physically if you pursue the line of questioning? And that’s what happened to me today when I asked:

  • Me: “Is this the Incident command post?” Him: “What is done here is top secret.”
  • Me: “I’m a maritime journalist who blogs about the Coast Guard, is their a USCG representative I can talk to?” Him: “I can not confirm or deny the presence of anyone working in this building!”
  • Me: “Who do I need to talk to before I may enter the building?” Him: “Do you have a badge, like this (lifting up his badge for me to see)”
  • Me: “Well no, how do I get one” Him: “You don’t unless you call someone in the building”
  • Me:”Can you give me the number of a Coast Guardsman in the building?” Him: “I can not confirm or deny the presence of anyone working in this building!”
  • Him: “Have a nice day sir (pointing to my car)” Me:”Ok, later”

So what I had hoped would be a positive blog post about the transparency of BP, the hard work BP’s doing late on a Friday night, and the professionalism of its representatives. Instead I have is this dumb story, confusion about the top secrecy of a building I found via google and a single question to gCaptain readers; “WTF BP?

UPDATE: After leaving the general vicinity and typing this article, I called the Joint Information hotline to plead my case. The duty officer informed me that an immediate visit would not be possible but that he would fast-track the request Early the next afternoon gCaptain did receive a phone call from a CG representative at the ICP inviting us to schedule a tour. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time left to visit before I needed to be at the airport.

UPDATE 2: It seems that BP has been caught photoshopping images of inside the command center.

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