BP report blames itself, others for oil spill
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – BP took some of the blame for the Gulf oil disaster in an internal report issued Wednesday, acknowledging among other things that it misinterpreted a key pressure test of the well. But in a possible preview of its legal strategy, it also pointed the finger at its partners on the doomed rig.
The highly technical, 193-page report attributes the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history and the rig explosion that set it off to a complex chain of failures both human and mechanical. Some of those problems have been made public over the past 4 1/2 months, such as the failure of the blowout preventer to clamp the well shut.
The report is far from the definitive ruling on the cause of the catastrophe. For one thing, government investigators have not yet begun to fully analyze the blowout preventer, which was raised from the bottom of the sea over Labor Day weekend.
But it provides an early look at the company’s probable legal strategy – spreading the blame among itself, rig owner Transocean, and cement contractor Halliburton – as it deals with hundreds of lawsuits, billions of dollars in claims and possible criminal charges in the coming months and years.
Critics of BP called the report self-serving.
“This report is not BP’s mea culpa,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., a member of a congressional panel investigating the spill. “Of their own eight key findings, they only explicitly take responsibility for half of one. BP is happy to slice up blame as long as they get the smallest piece.”
The report’s conclusions stand in contrast to a widely seen BP ad campaign in which the company casts no blame for the explosion and vows to clean up and restore the Gulf Coast.
“BP blaming others for the Gulf oil disaster is like Bernie Madoff blaming his accountant,” said Robert Gordon, an attorney for fishermen, hotels and restaurants affected by the spill. Another plaintiff’s lawyer, W. Mark Lanier, scoffed: “This is like the ringleader of a lynch mob saying, ‘Well, I didn’t bring the rope; he did.”‘
The disaster began when the Deepwater Horizon exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers. BP’s well spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf before a temporary cap stopped it in mid-July.
Members of Congress, industry experts and workers who survived the blast have accused BP’s engineers of cutting corners to save time and money on a project that was 43 days and more than $20 million behind schedule at the time of the blast.
Investigators know the explosion was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that shot up the drill column and ignited. But they don’t know exactly how and why the gas escaped. And they don’t know for certain why the blowout preventer didn’t work.
But in its report, BP said the blowout preventer didn’t do its job because it was damaged in the explosion and because it had a bad valve and weak batteries. Transocean, which was responsible for maintaining the blowout preventer, has insisted the batteries were in working order.