Sunday, November 14, 2010

Investigator Finds No Evidence That BP Took Shortcuts to Save Money

The lead investigator for the presidential panel delving into the BP oil spill said on Monday that he had found no evidence that anyone involved in drilling the doomed well had taken safety shortcuts to save money.

Fred H. Bartlit Jr., a prominent trial lawyer hired to lead the panel’s inquiry, disputed the findings of other investigators, including plaintiffs’ lawyers and members of Congress, who have charged that BP and its main partners, Transocean and Halliburton, had cut corners to speed completion of the well, which cost $1.5 million a day to drill.

“To date we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,” Mr. Bartlit said on Monday as he opened a detailed presentation on the causes of the April 20 disaster on a drilling rig off the Louisiana coast, which killed 11 workers and led to the biggest offshore oil spill in American history. “They want to be efficient, they don’t want to waste money, but they also don’t want to get their buddies killed.”

He indicated that a number of the contributing causes of the explosion might remain a mystery, because the evidence sank with the drilling rig or because the causes arose from decisions made by men who were killed or badly injured in the blowout.

Just hours before the explosion, employees of BP and Transocean, the operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, accepted the results of a pressure test that should have raised serious alarms, Mr. Bartlit and his aides found. Instead of acting on the information, they took no steps to keep the explosive oil and gas mixture out of the well, a decision that Mr. Bartlit and his team concluded contributed to the accident.

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