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Honesty best policy, says BP

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Energy companies can find themselves scrambling not only to mitigate losses from an accident but to also protect their reputation should damage result.

As producers of products that can be harmful to the environment, energy companies are roundly criticized and their image can suffer when something goes wrong, such as the leak discovered last month from a corroded Alaska pipeline operated by BP Exploration Alaska Inc.

Even though the leak was small—17 barrels had been recovered earlier this month—the pipeline was shut down and BP was under fire for allowing a spill to taint the Alaskan soil.

BP is hoping to stave off damage to its image by being "as open and transparent as possible," said a spokesman. That means dealing frankly with the public, politicians, regulators and politicians, he said.

BP executives have given testimony to the U.S. Senate outlining operational changes that the company hopes will prevent similar incidents.

In their Senate testimony, Bob Malone, chairman and president of BP America, and Steve Marshall, president of BP Exploration Alaska, vowed the company would, among other things:

Determine the best methods for mitigating corrosion and modify prevention programs.

Increase maintenance spending nearly four fold to $195 million (€153.7 million) in 2007.