The U.K. Guardian's U.S. environmental correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg dug up, by power of the Freedom of Information act, internal BP emails showing company officials discussing how to shape research projects to their interest. This is how the spin begins:
In a June 2010 email, BP environmental scientist Russell Putt asks of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI), BP's $500 million project studying the environmental impact of the disaster on the Gulf, "Can we 'direct' GRI funding to a specific study (as we now see the governor's offices trying to do)? What influence do we have over the vessels/equipment driving the studies vs the questions?".
In another email, BP environmental officer Karen Ragoonanan-Jalim writes that despite the GRI study being set up as an independent program managed by a board of trustees "independent of BP," she also writes "it may be possible for us to suggest the direction of the studies but without guarantee that they will be done."
Granted, these emails don't show evidence that research was steered to make BP look good. But BP officials should never have had any voice in that research planning, no matter how good their intentions may have been. It only confirms critics' concerns that conversations like these may have led to compromised results. BP's future in the Gulf and its defense in the war on the coast will come down to the results from that study. If officials did decide how to get the best bang for their buck — rather than leave those decisions up to independent scientists with no dog in the fight — this becomes more than just wrong.