BP PLC’s report on its investigation into the Deepwater Horizon disaster, released last month, is clearly designed to shift blame and create doubt as to the cause of the explosion. While BP has accepted some of the blame, the main thrust is an attempt to shift much of the blame to other companies responsible for the various decisions that led to the explosion and subsequent massive spill. It’s real difficult to understand exactly how much of the blame BP is accepting in the report. But let there be no doubt – BP can’t escape a major portion of the blame. BP’s report is not only largely self-serving, but is another slick public relations move.
There is one thing for certain and that is BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not caused by any single factor. There will be plenty of fault to go around between the “multiple companies and work teams,” mentioned in the report coming from the oil giant’s internal investigation. BP’s report concludes that a sequence of failures involving a number of different parties including BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and Cameron International Corporation led to the explosion and fire which killed 11 people and caused widespread pollution in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the report, decisions made by “multiple companies and work teams” contributed to the accident which it says arose from “a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.” The BP internal report found that:
The BP report concluded that “a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces came together to allow the initiation and escalation of the accident.” In laymen’s terms BP is simply saying all of the companies were at fault and caused the disaster, and don’t blame us too much.
This report will not halt the blame shifting that has been going on and neither will the litigation arising out of the disaster slow down. If anything, the lawsuits will increase dramatically. In testimony before Congress, several workers on the Deepwater Horizon blamed BP management for the spill, maintaining they cut corners and neglected safety issues in order to increase profits. Drilling company Transocean, which BP has argued is largely responsible, has attempted to distance itself from the disaster and limit its liability. It quickly took issue with the findings by BP in the self-serving report.
Another BP partner on the rig, Anadarko Petroleum, has accused BP of “willful misconduct” and said BP is entirely to blame for the disaster. Halliburton was involved in the cement work on the rig and has been named in several lawsuits, including one by the State of Alabama. We must never forget that all of the parties mentioned in BP’s report were at fault and contributed to cause the explosion that killed 11 workers and damaged the well, which unleashed nearly five million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. There was also significant fault to be assigned to the various corporations after the explosion and fire. Clearly firms other than BP played instrumental roles, such as Transocean Ltd., which owned the rig and was hired by BP to do drilling work. The rig’s cementing work, done by Halliburton, is a key component in stabilizing a well when exploration drilling is finished but production hasn’t started. Cameron International appears to have some serious design issues, but that will have to be further developed by way of pretrial discovery in the MDL. Other companies such as Anadarko will also have significant liability.
BP’s safety culture in the United States has been under heavy regulatory scrutiny in recent years because of other accidents with its operations, including the 2005 explosion at its Texas City, Texas, refinery that killed 15 people. That troubled past has resulted in charges that recent cost-cutting at BP played a role in the disaster. If those charges are proven in court BP will be on the hook for penalties and fines of an excess of $20 billion for violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act for all the crude spilled in the Gulf.
Sources: Wall Street Journal and Insurance Journal
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