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Entries in Deepwater Horizon (13)

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

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

Friday
Apr222011

Transocean Shares Blame for BP Oil Spill, Coast Guard Says

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Coast Guard’s investigation into the BP oil spill has determined that Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, was culpable along with BP for the blowout and subsequent spill that left 11 people dead and devastated wildlife and businesses along parts of the southern coastal states.

Investigators said Transocean's "deficiencies" made the disaster worse.  The Coast Guard said the company lacked a culture that emphasizes safety.

“This investigation seeks to prevent an accident similar to the Deepwater Horizon by identifying the factors that led to the tragedy and making recommendations to remove or minimize those factors in the future,” said Capt. David Fish, chief of the Coast Guard's Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis. “While nothing can bring back the 11 people who perished in this disaster, there is much that should be learned for the future.”

The Joint Investigation Team is comprised of representatives of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said that a final report on the matter is expected to be issued no later than July 27.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr212011

Obama Says Work Remains on BP Oil Spill; BP Sues Rig Owner

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Everyone recalls the environmental disaster that resulted when an oil drilling platform exploded 40 miles off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010.

What many have forgotten is that 11 workers died in the blast.

President Obama used the first anniversary of the largest accidental oil spill in the history of the petroleum history to remember the men who died on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, and the resulting damaged well that leaked an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama said, "That catastrophic event deeply affected the lives of millions of Americans, from local fishermen to restaurant and hotel owners and small businesses throughout the region."

While close to 50,000 people were involved in the effort to contain the spill and minimize the contamination of coastal areas and wildlife, Obama admitted, "the job isn't done."

The president added that his administration and state and local governments "continue to hold BP and other responsible parties fully accountable for the damage they've done and the painful losses that they've caused."

As it happens, BP, which has taken the brunt of the criticism for the spill, filed a $40 billion lawsuit Wednesday against Transocean, the company that owned the oil rig that exploded.  BP alleges that Transocean is "the responsible party" for the damages that occurred.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

Hundred-Mile Long Oil Sheen Reported in the Gulf

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images (file)(NEW ORLEANS) -- The U.S. Coast Guard tells ABC News it is gathering samples of an unknown substance in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting that the National Response Center received at least two calls this weekend, one that described a half-mile long sheen along the water’s surface and another that reported a sheen nearly 100 miles in length.

“No [oil] sheen was seen,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Casey Ranel told ABC News on Sunday. “There was a substance seen in the water but there was no sheen.”

Ranel says the samples collected could be anything, from algae to silt.

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

Wednesday
Dec152010

BP Oil Spill: Government Sues, Seeking Billions

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department filed suit Wednesday against BP and eight other companies it says are responsible for this summer's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The government is trying to recover tens of billions of dollars in penalties and damages.

The lawsuit seeks to recoup costs and damages under the Oil Pollution Act and impose additional penalties to the tune of up to $20 billion under the Clean Water Act.

Under the Clean Water Act, the companies can be fined up to $4,300 a barrel. The federal government estimates some 4.9 million barrels spilled into the Gulf following the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 people.

"We intend to prove these violations caused or contributed to the massive oil spill," Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.

He said the federal government intends to hold the companies "accountable for violations of the law."

The lawsuit says inadequate cement contributed to the disaster, but Halliburton Co., which supplied the cement, is not named in the suit.

Holder said additional defendants, potentially including Halliburton and Cameron International, the manufacturer of the critical blow-out preventer, could still be named in both the civil and criminal suits.

Hundreds of class-action suits brought by the fishing, tourism, and seafood industries are already making their way through the courts.

In addition to the federal government, Alabama and Louisiana have also filed suit against BP and other companies.

The firms currently named in the federal suit are: BP Exploration and Production Inc., Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc, Transocean Deepwater Inc, Anadarko Exploration & Production, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC (a division of Mitsui Oil corporation), Triton Asset Leasing, and BP's insurer QBE Underwriting/Lloyds.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Monday
Nov082010

Oil Spill Investigators Say Safety Was Not Sacrificed to Cost

Image Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The commission appointed by President Obama to investigate the Gulf oil spill at BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform said in a presentation Monday it agrees with most of the findings of BP’s own investigation and that it found no instances where the companies involved in the project put cost-cutting ahead of safety.  

Fred Bartlit, Jr. is chief counsel for the Oil Spill Commission and said no individuals sacrificed safety. “To date, we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety.”

The commission’s preliminary conclusions blame flaws in the cementing job and negative pressure tests of the BP well, along with rig employee’s inattention to signals for the explosion.  Eleven workers died in that blast on April 20th and millions of gallons of crude spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct292010

Investigative Panel Says Substandard Cement Was Used at BP Well

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The first official finding by the presidential commission investigating last spring’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a damning one.

The panel says the oil field services corporation Halliburton went ahead with sealing the bottom of the Macondo well several weeks before the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizons rig, even though the company knew that the cement used in the job was unstable.

In all, results of three tests conducted by Halliburton indicated that the cement did not meet industry standards.  In one instance, Halliburton shared the findings with well operator BP, which allowed the work to continue.

Lead panel investigator Fred Bartlit, Jr. does not speculate whether the substandard cement used by Halliburton was the primary or sole cause of the blowout resulting in the largest accidental spill in the history of petroleum spills.  However, Bartlit says if the cement had held and kept oil and natural gas out of the well bore, the 200-million gallon leak would not have occurred.

Previously, BP has blamed Halliburton, the cement contractor, for being partially responsible for the faulty cement job.  Halliburton has denied culpability in the accident, saying it was BP’s flawed design and poor operations that led to the disaster that will have repercussions in the Gulf of Mexico for perhaps decades to come.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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