BP’s Internal Investigation Left Crucial Stones Unturned

Posted February 28, 2013 in Crime Editors Picks Government by

Mark Bly headshot

Mark Bly testifying before the National Academy of Engineering committee Sept. 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Attorneys for Gulf Coast plaintiffs and the federal government grilled BP executive Mark Bly today about the internal investigation he led into the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion of 2010. Under questioning that grew contentious at times, Bly conceded that his investigative report “had limitations” and failed to examine whether executive leadership or cost-cutting measures were contributing factors in the accident that killed 11 men and dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Bly confirmed that it is standard policy at BP for accident investigations to probe systemic causes at the management level, but said that this wasn’t done in his Deepwater Horizon investigation.

“We could have attempted to do it, but we felt that we had good results from what we’d gotten and didn’t make the choice,” Bly explained when asked about why executive management wasn’t examined. He testified later that he “got an exception” from upper management to exclude those factors, and said under cross-examination by a BP attorney that the exception was justified by the circumstances of the investigation.

Bly’s report also fails to analyze or even mention several other factors that plaintiffs’ attorneys allege are critical to understanding the causes of the accident. It doesn’t detail communications between the rig and BP managers on the shore, nor does it include an interview with Kevin Lacy, a Gulf oil drilling executive who resigned from BP less than six months before the accident, citing concerns about BP’s commitment to safety. The report likewise makes no mention of BP’s corporate culture of “every dollar counts,” which prosecutors say influenced workers to value profits over safety.

Click here to read our full coverage of the trial.

After beginning his testimony Wednesday afternoon, Bly remained on the stand for the entire day on Thursday, discussing his investigation at length and insisting that the responsibility for the accident should be shared by its subcontractors Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Co. BP alleges that Transocean employees failed to maintain the oil rig’s blowout preventer and participated in a flawed interpretation of critical pressure tests that preceded the blowout. BP says Halliburton should also share blame for constructing the well with a porous cement slurry that allowed oil seepage and made the well unstable.

 

Ex-BP Boss to Drill Again

A day after his videotaped deposition was played at trial, former BP CEO Tony Hayward said that he was “not really” following the proceedings.

“For me it’s the past,” Hayward said. “I have no role to play.”

Hayward’s comments were published by the Telegraph in an article about his anticipated return to offshore drilling. Now the CEO for two-year-old oil producer Genel Energy, Hayward is looking to advance the company from oil production in the Kurdistan region of Iraq to new offshore drilling ventures in Africa and the Middle East.

Asked whether his legacy has made it difficult for him to gain access to new offshore oil reserves, Hayward said his BP leadership has come up “only ever in a positive way.”

 

Fight for Imaginary Dollars

Even though there have only been unconfirmed reports of BP considering a possible settlement deal, Gulf Coast politicians are already fighting about how the hypothetical settlement funds should be used.

Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby and Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu set aside party differences today to issue a joint statement requesting that most settlement funds be distributed according to the RESTORE Act, which was signed into law last summer. The new law directs 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines generated from the Deepwater Horizon incident into funds for coastal restoration in the five Gulf Coast states.

The statement says the RESTORE Act’s plan “is the most efficient way to get funds to the Gulf now so we can get to work on restoration projects.”

Meanwhile, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. David Vitter say that more of BP’s penalties should be paid to the National Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), because 100 percent of those funds support Gulf conservation efforts.

BP would prefer to see Jindal and Vitter get their way, as penalties paid to the NRDA are tax deductible, but Clean Water Act fines are not.

What do you think about today’s testimony? Let us know in the comments section below.

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