Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oil Spill Culpability

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Oil Spill Commission logo
The oil spill commission released its report on the horrific BP Macondo well last Tuesday, pointing to systemic failures pervasive in the industry and the regulatory structure. Fred Bartlit, the commission's chief counsel also indicated that he would release a supplemental report that will focus on the three companies principally involved (or at fault) in the disaster—BP, the operator of the well, Transocean, the rig's owner, and Halliburton, who was responsible for the cementing that failed, leading to the blowout.

It is interesting that there is a supplemental report, and doubly so that it comes from the top lawyer.

The federal government previously sued both BP and Transocean (as well as several others) but oddly not Halliburton. This forthcoming report will probably either explain this odd omission, or provide the basis for fresh legal action likely to be the main event in courtrooms for a decade or more.

The oil industry would like us to believe that they have implemented safety and process improvements that will prevent future problems. Yet they cannot stop making excuses. While many in the industry say that the disaster was a "fluke" compared to "safely" producing from more than 14,000 off-shore wells, most also echo Randall Luthi of NOIA in nearly the same breath:
The offshore industry has already made changes in procedures and practices based on the lessons learned thus far and in response to new regulations.
Left unsaid is whether these changes enhance safety, profits, legal exposure, or plausible deniability.

The heads of the other oil majors also suggest that if Macondo had been their well there would not have been an accident because their companies would have done things differently. Well which is it? An unlucky happenstance? Something they would never do (even if others would)? Something they wouldn't do again but have already corrected their procedures so they can (and of course will)?

Like shifty thugs caught at the scene of the crime, the oil companies and their contractors are each trying desperately first to say nothing happened, and second, that even if something did, it was by someone else in their tawdry gang, not them! Yet even as they continue pointing fingers at each other, the consistent underlying message is a much simpler one: trust us.

Um, I don't think so, and Bartlit's report will likely show just how untrustworthy they are.

No comments:

Post a Comment