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Entries in BP (16)

Thursday
Nov152012

BP Agrees to $4.5 Billion Gulf Spill Settlement; Three Former Employees Charged

PRNewsFoto(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department announced manslaughter charges Thursday against two BP officials involved in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, in which negligence by well site managers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling ship allegedly led to the country's biggest environmental disaster.

A third BP official has been charged for allegedly making false statements to Congress by providing inaccurate information to investigators about the rate at which oil was flowing from the well.

The criminal charges were announced along with a $4.5 billion settlement, with BP agreeing to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges and admitting responsibility for the deaths of 11 workers aboard Deepwater Horizon. The company has agreed to plead guilty to 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter, Clean Water and Migratory Bird Act violations and obstruction of Congress.

"Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the deaths of the 11 men onboard the Deepwater Horizon could have been avoided," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said at a news conference in New Orleans. "The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP's culture of privileging profit over prudence; and we allege that BP's most senior decision makers onboard the Deepwater Horizon negligently caused the explosion."

 

Under the settlement, BP has also agreed to a $525 million fine to resolve charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading investors about the rate of oil flow from the well.

Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, BP's well site leaders, were charged in the indictment with 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter and Clean Water Act violations. The charges alleged the "company men" on board Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig failed to heed abnormal pressure readings in the well as final preparations were made for extracting the oil and gas.

"Kaluza and Vidrine were aware of continued, abnormal, high pressure on the drill pipe," the indictment alleged. "Despite these ongoing, glaring indications on the drill pipe that the well was not secure, defendants Kaluza and Vidrine again failed to phone engineers on shore to alert them to the problem, and failed to investigate any further. Instead defendants Kaluza and Vidrine deemed the negative testing a success."

Kaluza's attorneys, Shaun Clarke and David Gerger, decried the charges.

"After nearly three years and tens of millions of dollars in investigation, the government needs a scapegoat," the lawyers said in a prepared statement. "Bob was not an executive or high-level BP official. He was a dedicated rig worker who mourns his fallen co-workers every day."

Vidrine's attorney, Robert Habens, said his client was innocent and called the charges, "a miscarriage of justice."

David Rainey, former vice president of exploration at BP, has been charged with obstruction of Congress and making false statements for asserting that BP's spill estimates were about 5,000 barrels of oil per day, while he allegedly knew that other BP estimates showed oil flows of up to 92,000 barrels of oil per day being spilled. The charge concerned briefing and materials and a letter that was sent to Congress.

"The company lied and withheld documents, in order to make it seem as though less damage was being done to the environment than was actually occurring," Breuer said."Rainey allegedly cherry-picked pages from documents, withheld other documents altogether and lied to Congress and others in order to make the spill appear less catastrophic than it was.

Rainey's lawyers, Reid H. Weingarten and Brian M. Heberlig, said he did "absolutely nothing wrong."

"We are profoundly disappointed that the Department of Justice is attempting to turn a tragic accident and its tumultuous aftermath into criminal activity," they said in a prepared statement. "Mr. Rainey did not commit the crimes charged in the indictment, period."

As part of the settlement, BP will pay almost $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences. BP has also agreed to take additional steps to enhance the safety of drilling in the Gulf.

"All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident, as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf Coast region," said Bob Dudley, BP's CEO. "From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today's resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions."

Attorney General Eric Holder praised the settlement.

"The $4 billion in penalties and fines is the single largest criminal resolution in the history of the United States," Holder said, "and constitutes a major achievement toward fulfilling a promise that the Justice Department made nearly two years ago to respond to the consequences of this epic environmental disaster and seek justice on behalf of its victims."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul092012

Two Years Later, Effects of Dispersants in BP Oil Spill Still a Mystery

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two years ago this week, the wellhead that ruptured on the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico, sending 4.9 million barrels of oil into the water, was capped.  After three months, the end of the largest oil spill in the industry's history was in sight.

With the help of nearly two million gallons of toxic chemicals known as dispersants, BP and government agencies involved in the response managed to prevent most of the oil from reaching the shoreline.  But while the Gulf Coast's seafood and tourism industries are slowly recovering, the effects of those dispersants -- used underwater for the first time ever -- remain murky.

"My stomach churns when I hear people say, 'We dodged a bullet,' because I've heard it so many times, but we shouldn't be so quick to wave this off," said James Cowan, a professor at Louisiana State University's School of the Coast and Environment.  "This notion of 'Come back to the Gulf, eat seafood, it's fine' is a problem."

The health risks of dispersants used in the response to the Deepwater Horizon spill are not yet fully known, said Cheryl Murphy, an environmental toxicologist at Michigan State University, in part because the contamination that began in phytoplankton may take years to rise up the food chain to the seafood eaten by humans.

Scientists are already spotting red flags.  Cowan said the rates of dolphin and sea turtle deaths have risen to highly unusual levels in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is also clear evidence, he said, that contamination has been making strides up the food chain, with 2 to 5 percent of the gulf fish population affected.  His greatest worry now, he said, is for fishermen who handle fish with lesions containing highly concentrated pathogens linked to the dispersants, which accelerate the breakup of oil.

Significant gaps remain in researchers' understanding of the dispersants' environmental consequences, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office earlier this month.  Despite $15.5 million in federal funding for studies on dispersants -- including $8 million since the gulf spill -- scientists have yet to answer basic questions about how the chemicals affect underwater environments and what their potential risks to human health may be as the chemicals and their combinations with oil droplets move up the food chain.

The main dispersant used in the spill response was Corexit, a cocktail of 57 chemicals manufactured by Illinois-based Nalco.  It was neither the most effective nor the least toxic oil dispersant, and it is banned from use in oil spills in the United Kingdom and Canada.  But BP claimed that only Nalco could provide the quantities of dispersant needed the week of the disaster.  By the time the well was capped, about 1.1 million gallons of dispersants were sprayed at the wellhead in addition to the nearly one million gallons poured onto the surface.

On Aug. 2, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency defended the use of dispersants, arguing that the threat they posed to the environment was no greater than that of the oil.  But the picture is much more complicated than that, many scientists say.

When oil combines with the dispersant chemicals, the result is more toxic than either substance individually, and the depth at which dispersants were released raises concerns that currents are carrying their dangers far beyond the wellhead, Cowan said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec292011

Report: Prosecutors Readying Criminal Charges Against BP Workers

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Federal prosectors are reportedly working on criminal charges against BP employees over the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in April 2010 that killed 11 people and sent millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports prosecutors are looking at several Houston-based engineers and at least one of their supervisors who they believe may have given regulators false information about the drilling risks associated with the well.

Should the charges be brought against them, the employees may face up to five years in prison and a fine, the Journal says.  The newspaper's sources say the charges may be disclosed early next year.

The Department of Justice has not issued any comments on the matter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

Final Investigative Report Issued on BP Oil Spill

M WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -– The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) along with the U.S. Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team (JIT) have finally released their investigative report on the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill.

The report not only blames BP, but also points fingers at its contractors, the drillers and rig operators, including Transocean and Halliburton.

It comes as the result of no fewer than seven public hearings and the testimonies of 80 witnesses and experts. In the report, the bureau has made dozens of recommendations that could significantly change how the offshore oil drilling industry operates in the gulf.

 

The JIT was formed in late April of 2010 by order of the Departments of the Interior and  Homeland security to investigate the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and to make recommendations to ensure safe operations for future oil and gas activities.

The reforms launched by BOEMRE include strengthening requirements for well design, workplace safety and corporate accountability. An additional rule would incorporate additional safety requirements related specifically to the findings of the investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug182011

BP Investigating Oil Sheen in Gulf of Mexico

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- BP says it is investigating a new oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company said Thursday that it is working with other operators to determine potential sources of the sheen, which was observed last week by the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The sheen was observed in a location that was not near any existing BP operations,” the company said. “However, BP does have two abandoned exploration well sites in the area.”

A remote-operated vehicle has been sent down to investigate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr262011

'Shelter-in-Place' Ordered After BP Plant Loses Power in Texas

Dave Einsel/Getty Images(TEXAS CITY, Texas) -- A power failure at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, Monday has prompted officials to ask residents there to shelter-in-place while the situation gets under control.

ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston reports that officials have issued a Level III shelter-in-place advisory, which, according to the Texas City website, means that "an incident has occurred, the situation is not under control and protective action may be necessary for the surrounding or offsite area."

"Shelter-in-place" essentially means to stay where you are.  Residents are also being asked to turn off their air conditioners.

The warning was issued as a precaution.  So far, no evacuations have been ordered.

After the power failure, heavy flares were seen rising from the plant as part of a burnoff, according to KTRK-TV.  It is not yet known why the refinery lost its power.

This isn't the first time BP's Texas City plant has run into problems.  Back in 2005, an explosion and fire at the plant left 15 workers dead and over 100 more wounded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr192011

Gulf Oil Spill: Fishermen Say They Are Sick from Cleanup

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, an army of fishermen, 10,000 strong, joined the cleanup effort. Today, almost a year after the spill, many say they are suffering from debilitating health effects that studies suggest are consistent with prolonged exposure to chemicals in oil.

An ABC News investigation found that many workers were told they did not need respirators -- advice BP received from the government -- and that no government agency tested the air the workers were breathing out at sea until a month after the spill.

BP continues to insist that "no one should be concerned about their health being harmed by the oil." In fact, BP says, "The monitoring results showed that the levels generally were similar to background conditions -- in other words, concentrations that would have been expected before or in the absence of the spill."

Tell that to Todd Rook, age 45, who says he had pneumonia four times in the last eight months and never once before the oil spill. Or to Malcolm Coco, 42, who says he has had blood in his urine and suffered from chest pains and memory loss.

BP hired fishermen as part of the Vessels of Opportunity Program, where they took their own boats out to sea to stop the oil before it hit the shore. There were more than 3,000 of these boats out there -- that's more than 10,000 proud fishermen riding through the oil, burning it, skimming it, laying down those booms, for hours and days -- sometimes weeks out at sea without coming home -- all to save their precious waters and livelihood.

And now they're speaking out for the first time, but they may just be the latest victims of oil spills. Only two weeks ago, a major study in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed 26 studies from the eight biggest oil spills around the world. And in a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Gina Solomon, co-director of the Occupational and Environmental Health Program at the University of California, San Francisco says, "The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico poses direct threats to human health from inhalation or dermal contact with the oil and dispersant chemicals."

Respiratory symptoms aren't surprising to medical experts contacted by ABC News. In a 2002 spill off the coast of Spain, cleanup workers were twice as likely to have breathing problems as non-cleanup workers were. In another study, workers who worked more than twenty days on the oil were four times as likely to have breathing problems.

There are over 200 chemicals in oil, some more dangerous than others. One of them is benzene -- a Group 1 carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is in the same class as radioactive iodine, arsenic, and asbestos.

Dr. Michael Harbut, an oncologist who sees Gulf patients, said, "I think there's a fairly high likelihood that we'll see some increase in some cancers in some of the populations with exposure to the chemicals." Harbut is director of the Environmental Cancer Program at the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Tuesday
Jan112011

Commission on BP Spill Calls for Tougher Regulations

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A "fundamental reform" of the oil industry and government regulations is needed to ensure that another incident like the BP oil spill doesn't occur, according to the president's National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

In a report released Tuesday, the commission attributed the causes of the largest oil spill in U.S. history to a "culture of complacency," leading to human errors, engineering mistakes and mismanagement by BP, Halliburton and Transocean as well as a lack of stringent offshore drilling regulation.

The commission recommended the creation of a safety agency within the Department of Interior that would oversee all aspects of offshore drilling and bring regulation of the industry in line with the 21st century.

Funding for this agency would come from fees attached to the leases for offshore drilling in public waters. The commission called on Congress to boost funding and training for the Department of Interior to ensure that appropriate and serious oversight is exercised.

The commission also proposed the creation of a safety institute led by leaders in the oil industry to ensure best standards and practices are carried out; raising the current liability cap of $75 million for offshore drilling accidents; and the allocation of 80 percent of the funds collected from the BP oil spill to restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

The seven-member panel unanimously approved the 15 recommendations included in the report. Many of the recommendations will require action by Congress, but the administration may also implement some of the recommendations through executive order.

Members of the commission, including co-chairs former Sen. Bob Graham and William Reilly, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, will testify before Congress on January 26.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec032010

Submarine Dive Finds Oil, Dead Sea Life at Bottom of Gulf of Mexico

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- A mile below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, there is little sign of life.

"It looks like everything's dead," University of Georgia professor Samantha Joye said.

In an exclusive trip aboard the U.S. Navy's deep-ocean research submersible Alvin, ABC News was given the chance to observe the impact of this summer's massive oil spill that most will never see. The ocean floor appears to be littered with twigs, but Joye points out that they are actually dead worms and that Alvin is sitting on top of what is considered an 80-square mile kill zone.

Aboard the Alvin Thursday, Joey said she saw "about three to four inches of material." That as BP, the company responsible for the spill, is challenging government estimates that 200 million gallons of crude spill from its runaway well. London-based BP now insists it's half that. But 5,000 feet down, the oil appears to be everywhere. The government estimates that less than 25 percent of the oil remains, but these scientists say it's not gone, just settled at the bottom of the ocean.

The water in most places appears to be clear, a stark contrast to the oil that covered miles of ocean after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 workers. But Joye said what was once on the surface has now sunk.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec012010

Obama: No New Offshore Oil Drilling in East

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration, reversing itself in the wake of April's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has let it be known that it will maintain a long-standing ban on offshore oil drilling off the East Coast or western coast of Florida -- and political activists of all stripes are weighing in with delight or outrage.

Charlie Crist, the outgoing governor of Florida (a Republican turned Independent this year), told local reporters in Tallahassee the decision was "wonderful news."

"That's news that will be very favorably received by the tourist industry throughout the state, but also by the people," Crist said.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the administration was continuing a "misguided policy." "The Administration is taking the wrong approach in responding to the BP spill and creating energy jobs in this country.  The answer isn’t to give up and say, ‘America can’t figure it out, we’ll rely on other countries to produce our energy.’  The answer is to find out what went wrong and make effective, timely reforms to ensure that U.S. offshore drilling is the safest in the world," said Hastings.

Environmental groups, on the other hand, applauded. “As we saw this summer, offshore oil drilling cannot be done safely," said Andrew Sharpless, CEO of the group Oceana.  "It wrecks fisheries, kills the jobs that depend upon them, and contaminates beaches. This decision is a wise and sensible step to protect Florida, the Atlantic coast and the Pacific coast from an inevitable disaster from expanded drilling.  It’s great to see the government acting in a strong, clear and far-sighted way to protect the oceans – and the people who work and depend on them."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio