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Repaying Old Debts?

By Kristina Miletic on March 9, 2007No Comment

The Los Angeles Times reported this week the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) received a $25 million gift from British oil giant BP, which capped phase one of LACMA’s three-part expansion and renovation campaign.

The article reports “in courting the gift from BP’s top executives in London, LACMA Director Michael Govan said he emphasized ‘access and energy’ as hallmarks of the new museum entrance that would be a symbolic fit for a gasoline seller,” but it was BP’s idea to bring this illusion to life and propose solar panels atop the new entry pavilion. The company hopes the “BP Grand Entrance,” the connection between the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum and LACMA’s existing building, will make people think of BP as an environmental innovator for decades to come.

The article also points out that BP hasn’t always been the darling of environmental circles, particularly in California. In 2002, BP paid the state $45.8 million to settle a suit over pollution from leaking gasoline storage tanks. Later, air quality regulators sued the company over leakage of smog-forming chemicals at BP’s Carson refinery. BP settled for $81 million.

So is BP trying to get back on the good side of environment protectors and the state of California?  Just last month, the company made a $500-million, 10-year grant to UC Berkeley and other institutions to develop cleaner alternative fuels. Interestingly, BP said neither of those gifts would count toward a pledge it made in 2002 to donate $100-million to California charities over 10 years. (This pledge was made after the company took over Arco, a Los Angeles company well-known for its philanthropy.) Whatever the debate behind BP’s generosity, there’s no mistake the $25 million gift will be enjoyed by Angelinos and the many visitors from around the world walking through LACMA’s doors everyday.

To see more about LACMA’s expansion plan, click here.

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