At first blush, it appeared that the early findings of the President’s independent commission into what caused BP’s Gulf oil spill supported many of the conclusions the oil company made in its own internal investigation. Fred H. Bartlit Jr., the panel’s chief investigator, told the media that he agreed with about 90% of BP’s findings. But he did admit there were some areas where the panel’s probe conflicted. As you may recall, BP’s report tried to shift some of the blame to its contractor Halliburton on its cement job and to faulty maintenance performed by rig owner Transocean Ltd.
BP’s report was largely self-serving and in my opinion designed to help defend lawsuits. Bartlit said his group’s findings weren’t meant to assign blame or liability, but to get to the root cause “without a lot of bickering and self-serving statements.” While I don’t want to be overly critical of the Commission’s work, I have been concerned about the government’s cozy relationship with BP. I believe there has been too much of a cover up of the true state of affairs on the coast by both BP and the government. Turning things over to BP from the outset, in my opinion, was a mistake.
It was interesting to note that the leaders on the President’s commission had to clarify and actually contradict some of what Bartlit originally stated. The heads of the oil spill commission took issue with Bartlit. The heads of the Commission made it clear that complacency at BP, as well as at Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton, led to serious missteps prior to the rig explosion that unleashed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the summer. Obviously, these comments were much more critical than the previous statements by Bartlit that the companies involved did not place cost cutting over safety. Commission co-chair Bill Reilly, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, had this to say:
BP, Halliburton and Transocean are major respected companies operating throughout the Gulf and the evidence is they are in need of top-to-bottom reform.
Reilly said that the BP oil spill demonstrated the need for sweeping and systemic safety changes to the oil industry. He reiterated his call for the creation of a self-regulating entity that would set and enforce standards. Both Reilly and his commission co-chair, Bob Graham, sought to clarify comments made earlier by Bartlit, the commission’s chief counsel, that workers for the companies did not cut corners on safety to save money. Both Reilly and Graham said the panel’s investigators were not concluding that the companies involved placed enough emphasis on safety. Graham, a former U.S. Senator from Florida, said: “The problem here is that there was a culture that did not promote safety…leaders did not take risks seriously enough.”
Since Bartlit had to backtrack, he now says his team was not saying BP never acted out of its financial interests. Commission investigators are considering whether any of the decisions made regarding the BP well focused on saving money to the detriment of safety. Now Bartlit says that “issue is still open.” The commission’s final findings and its recommendations are scheduled to be released by January. President Barack Obama created the seven-member commission in the aftermath of the BP drilling accident. Its ultimate charge is to develop proposals to prevent and respond to major spills in the future.
Source: Insurance Journal
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