As BP oil spread across the Gulf of Mexico this summer, the company spent more than $93 million on advertisements to counter images of the mounting disaster.
That was more than triple the amount the company spent on ads during the same period last year, from April through the end of July, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's spill investigation reported Wednesday.
The company says the ads were intended to keep Gulf Coast residents informed on issues related to the oil spill and to ensure transparency about its actions.
"It feels like BP is overdoing it" with its advertising, said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who asked for the spending figure. "It's really making people angry. Every day you get up and see these full-page ads in every newspaper and the TV ads. It's really ticking people off."
"While BP's advertising campaign ramped up, businesses and the gulf communities struggled to deal with the costs of the disaster," Castor said. "While BP certainly has the right to advertise, its approach has been insensitive to the taxpayers and business owners harmed by the Deepwater Horizon blowout."
BP spokesman Scott Dean said large companies such as BP spend hundreds of millions each year to communicate their activities and products to the public. The money spent on advertising is a relatively small portion of BP's total expenditures of about $6.1 billion on the oil spill to date, he added.
The ads — in which U.S.-based employees vow to clean up and restore the Gulf Coast — appear to be having some effect.
An Associated Press poll shows the company's marks for handling the oil spill more than doubled from June to August — rising to 33% approval among those surveyed from a dismal 15% in June. About 66% of those surveyed continue to disapprove of BP's performance, down from 83% in June.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans federal judge who scuttled the Obama administration's six-month deepwater drilling moratorium in the gulf refused Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit that prompted his ruling.
Government lawyers had asked U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman to dismiss as moot the lawsuit brought by drilling companies after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suspended drilling at depths of 500 feet or more in the wake of the deadly Deepwater Horizon well blowout.
Feldman ruled on June 22 that the government action was overly broad. Salazar's department then withdrew the original moratorium order and issued a new one directed at drilling operations using the type of blowout preventer that apparently failed in the BP disaster.
The second moratorium affected the same drillers targeted by the first, Feldman noted in his decision to deny the government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The second order halting deep-water drilling remains in effect through the end of November. It is unlikely the legal challenges to the first moratorium will be decided by then.
The damaged deep-water well has not leaked since mid-July, when it was capped. Work to finish the relief well that will permanently seal it was suspended because of rough seas but is expected to resume later this week.