SEARCH

Entries in Gulf Oil Spill (6)

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

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 

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

Thursday
Oct072010

NOAA Administrator 'Sets the Record Straight' to Oil Spill Commission

Photo Courtesy - NOAA dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- The administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote to the chairs of the Oil Spill Commission Thursday to "alert" them to a "mischaracterization" of a NOAA document in a commission staff working paper, the release of which Wednesday subjected the White House to much criticism of its response to the oil spill.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco said she wanted to "set the record straight" regarding the description in the paper that: "The Commission staff has also been advised that, in late April or early May 2010, NOAA wanted to make public some of its long-term, worst-case discharge models for the Deepwater Horizon spill, and requested approval to do so from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.  Staff was told that the Office of Management and Budget denied NOAA’s request."

Lubchenco said that NOAA "wanted to share the outcome of these models with the public, and so prepared a short description of the models and outcomes and submitted the document through OMB's interagency clearance process."  OMB required more work, though.  "Contrary to suggestions in the Draft Staff Working Paper, the document was cleared and released to the public."‬

In addition, asserted Lubchenco, the paper in question was studying long-term movement of the oil, not flow rate.  And though the draft paper "suggests that the early low flow rate estimates might have hampered the federal response,” she said, “[t]his was not the case.  Two goals of the worst-case scenario modeling were to inform the Unified Command's understanding about possible scenarios and aid the response effort, both of which happened.”‬

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct062010

The White House Responds to Critical Reports from Oil Commission

Photo Courtesy -- The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Two senior White House officials spoke with ABC News in response to the Oil Spill Commission's tough criticisms of the administration’s management at the time of the spills.  Noting that the draft reports issued were written by staff and have not been signed off on by the Oil Spill Commission members or chairmen, the White House officials addressed three of the more provocative charges in the reports.

1)     Of the charge that White House climate change czar Carole Browner misrepresented the oil budget on August 4 – telling, for instance, the Good Morning America audience that “the vast majority of the oil is gone” -- they plead guilty, but they say it was an honest confusion and misunderstanding. “Nobody set out to ‘pull the wool over the country’s eyes,’” an official said. “There was a point of confusion.”

Carole was mistaken?

“Carole was mistaken,” the official said, noting that Jane Lubchenco of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration clarified what the oil budget actually meant when she issued a far more detailed statement saying, “The vast majority of the oil from the BP oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed  much of which is in the process of being degraded. A significant amount of this is the direct result of the robust federal response efforts.”

2)     Of the charge that the administration was overly optimistic, which “may have affected the scale and speed with which national resources were brought to bear,” an official points out that the same paragraph also notes that it is “not clear that this misplaced optimism affected any individual response effort.”

“We used the best information and the best modeling we had at that time,” the official said. “The numbers” – estimates of how much oil was spilling into the ocean – “changed as the technology got better.”

3)     Of the charge that the White House, specifically the Office of Management and Budget, stifled a request from NOAA at the end of April/beginning of May to alert the public as to the worst-case scenario, officials say that’s because the NOAA modeling was not taking into affect the oil that was being skimmed, burned and collected by Top Hat. OMB was the location for the interagency clearance process, and officials there wanted to make sure the information coming from the administration was as precise as possible, officials say. They point to appearances by Admiral Thad Allen and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on May 2 on CNN in which the two men said a worst-case scenario could be 100,000 barrels or more of oil flowing out per day as evidence that they were not attempting to hide anything.

Bottom line, the officials say: “At no point in time did any of these issues impact how we responded to the spill. It did not affect our operations.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Wednesday
Oct062010

Oil Spill Commission Blasts Obama Administration Response to Spill

Photo Courtesy - US Coast Guard via Getty ImagesPresident Obama’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, created through executive order on May 21, 2010, issued four preliminary working papers that include tough criticisms of the administration’s handling of the spills.

“For the first ten days of the spill, it appears that a sense of over-optimism affected responders,” one paper says. “Responders almost uniformly noted that, while they understood that they were facing a major spill, they believed that BP would get the well under control…While it is not clear that this misplaced optimism affected any individual response effort, it may have affected the scale and speed with which national resources were brought to bear.  In hindsight, some Coast Guard responders thought that their initial approach was too slow and unfocused.”

The report also says that the administration’s “estimates of the amount of oil flowing into and later remaining in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the Macondo well explosion were the source of significant controversy, which undermined public confidence in the federal government’s response to the spill.  By initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the Gulf, the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio