Expert Testifies Deepwater Horizon ‘Not Seaworthy’
Wrapping up the third week of testimony in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill trial, marine engineering expert Edward Geoffrey Webster testified that the rig was out of compliance with international and federal safety codes.
Webster’s testimony focused on Transocean, the company that owned Deepwater Horizon and trained its crew. He specified that Transocean violated safety codes by disabling the rig’s safety and alarm systems, neglecting basic maintenance of the blowout preventer and failing to train its crew for worst-case scenarios.
In his 2011 report on the disaster, Webster blamed the crew for failing to activate the general alarm and for diverting the surging oil into small, low-pressure tanks on the rig rather than to emergency lines directed away from the deck. Even a “minimally competent crew” would have taken those actions immediately, he said.
The alarms, fire suppression systems and other safety features on the rig were designed to activate automatically when conditions called for them, but Transocean disabled those functions. In earlier testimony, Transocean worker Randy Ezell said this was done to avoid waking up sleeping crewmembers with false alarms.
“From the naval architecture and marine engineering and surveying standpoints, disabling the vessel’s gas and fire suppression systems was reckless conduct by Transocean,” Webster wrote in his report. “A marine surveyor would find the overridden system rendered the vessel unseaworthy.”
The report says the rig’s blowout preventer was in a “state of disrepair” and was “incapable of shutting in the Macondo well.” Webster said the crippled blowout preventer rendered the rig “unfit for its intended service, a condition that apparently existed for years prior to the casualty.”
“It was reckless of Transocean to create a vessel condition that allowed destruction of the only communication between the vessel and the mechanical means of severing its anchor to a burning well,” he wrote.
Potential New Evidence Found
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A lawyer for Halliburton informed U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier Wednesday night that the company may have located leftover samples of the cement used in the Macondo well.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan ordered a detailed report from Halliburton on the possible whereabouts of any remaining samples after earlier testimony suggested that they may have been discarded. While Halliburton’s attorneys prepared the report, workers found cement samples on a shelf in their Lafayette, La., facility that may be from the same batch.
Halliburton attorney Don Godwin downplayed the discovery, telling Barbier, “Our judgment is they have nothing to do with this trial, I was simply giving the court full disclosure.”
Halliburton is investigating how the samples were misplaced and whether they are covered by a 2010 federal subpoena, under which other known samples were handed over to the government.
BP May Drill Gulf Again Soon
The Environmental Protection Agency prohibited BP from obtaining any new federal contracts after the company pleaded guilty in its criminal case last November. But the Department of the Interior announced that it will allow the company to bid on a new federal lease in the Gulf of Mexico just in case the suspension is lifted, FuelFix reports.
If BP is the highest bidder at the end of the sale, it will have 90 days to get its suspension lifted or else the lease goes to the next highest bidder.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has called for the removal of BP’s ban, saying she’s “furious” that the EPA “came out of the blue and slapped a suspension and disbarment without notice and without any clear guidance.”
Landrieu says the EPA hasn’t been specific about what BP needs to do to lift the ban, and that she’s trying to “find out what other risks companies might have doing business in Louisiana.”
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