+ “Escalating” oil spill claims appear to do little good, even when claimants get Gov. Charlie Crist involved.

+ Republican attorney general candidate Pam Bondi issued a statement signaling she would follow the lead of sitting Attorney General Bill McCollum in aggressively challenging federal claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg. She called on him to extend the looming deadline for filing emergency claims “indefinitely.”

+ New data suggest that Gulf Coast hotels are continuing to struggle in the wake of the spill.

+ “The Spill,” a collaboration between ProPublica and PBS Frontline, is now online. More on the investigation of BP’s safety record after the jump.

+ Members of President Obama’s offshore drilling commission were surprised to learn that “federal drilling rig inspectors generally know little or nothing about the process of safely lining and sealing an offshore oil well.”

+ The EPA has chosen a Florida native who previously worked on the restoration of the St. Johns River to head the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.

ProPublica and PBS Frontline investigate BP’s safety record
In a recent speech pushing back against what he called “a great rush to judgment by a fair number of observers before the full facts could possibly be known, even from some in our industry,” Bob Dudley, BP’s new CEO, said the company is committed to changing its ways in the wake of the blowout of the Macondo oil well.

Our Board and our management team are determined that BP will learn from and apply best practice from wherever it can be found, and that it will, over time, become one of the best companies in our industry at managing risk.To that end we have announced a number of initial steps. We are creating a powerful new safety division with authority to oversee and intervene in the company’s operations around the world.

It will have its own expert staff, independent from the project teams, and will be fully empowered to intervene in all aspects of BP’s technical activities. That new function will be headed by Mark Bly and report directly to me and that role will join the most senior executive team.

The lengthy investigation by ProPublica and PBS reveals that the company’s safety problems extended beyond the gulf:

A ProPublica analysis of state and federal records revealed that BP has fared far worse in the United States than the rest of the industry in terms of spills and serious safety violations.

In Alaska, home to one of BP’s longest-standing and most important business units, the company produced nearly twice as much oil as ConocoPhillips, the other major company operating there, but since 2000 it has also recorded nearly four times as many large spills of oil, chemicals or waste. In the Gulf of Mexico, BP had more spills than Shell between 2000 and 2009, even though Shell produced more oil there.

BP’s workers also appear to be more at risk. In Alaska, it has had 52 worker-safety violations since 1990, compared with ConocoPhillips’ seven. Nationally, according to an extensive analysis of data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, BP had 518 safety violations over the last two decades, compared with 240 for Chevron and even fewer for its other competitors. Since those statistics were compiled, in 2009, OSHA has announced 745 more violations at two BP refineries, one near Toledo, Ohio, and the other in Texas City, Texas, where 15 people were killed and 170 injured in a 2005 explosion.

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