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BP helped write California's environmental curriculum

SACRAMENTO — BP, the energy giant responsible for the largest offshore oil spill in history, helped develop California's framework for teaching more than 6 million students about the environment.

Despite a mixed environmental record even before the Gulf of Mexico disaster, state officials included BP on the technical team for its soon-to-be-completed environmental education curriculum, which will be used in kindergarten through 12th-grade classes in more than 1,000 school districts statewide.

Environmental watchdogs and some experts who worked on the project said BP's involvement is troubling given its handling of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, which killed 11 workers and dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

"I'd hate to see how a section in future textbooks mentioning the BP oil spill will look," said Lisa Graves, executive director for the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy, a critic of so-called "greenwashing" techniques by corporations to make their products appear eco-friendly.

"I think it's very worrisome because their fundamental goal is to profit from energy and not to teach children," Graves said.

Officials with the California Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the curriculum project, said BP had a minor role in its early planning stages and was just one of dozens of stakeholders from a diverse range of interests.

Andrea Lewis, Cal EPA's assistant secretary for education and quality programs, said the bulk of work on the curriculum was done by specialists whose content was peer reviewed by outside experts.

BP declined comment on its involvement.

Dubbed the Education and the Environment Initiative, the state's curriculum project was launched by the Legislature in 2003 as the first effort by any state to develop a statewide curriculum for environmental education.

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