BP may not be Culpable for Deepwater Horizon Spill: US Government Withheld Data
BP and the U.S. government portrayed in public a united front as a runaway well spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. But they privately sought to withhold potentially critical information from each other, possibly slowing efforts to solve the crisis.
“I didn’t feel a partnership, you know, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to solve the flow rate problem. Let’s sit down and put the best minds from BP and the best minds of government and work this out,’?” said Marcia McNutt, head of the U.S. Geological Survey, who headed a government team tasked with determining how much oil was spilling from BP’s Macondo well. “There was this tenseness. It was almost kind of a chill in the room when flow rate issues came up.”
Knowing how fast the oil was flowing was a key to evaluating possible ways to stop it. The transcript shows the tight-fitting capping stack that ultimately closed the well was available long before BP used it, but the company first went through a series of other fixes that failed.
In a May 19, 2010, email, McNutt’s predecessor in leading the government’s flow rate technical group, David Moore, suggested to other government officials that information flow only one way. “The only role of BP in the exercise is in providing access to data,” he wrote.
Law professor LeCesne said BP’s culpability could be mitigated if “the information the government was withholding in some way affected BP’s ability to respond on its part.”
This could be a huge turning point in the case. If it is determined that the US government did indeed withhold information from BP (very possible considering how the US treats information), which prevented the oil company from effectively finding a solution to the leaking well, then BP will clearly be resolved of, if not all, then a huge amount of responsibility.
This is certainly the get out of jail free card that BP has been waiting for, but will the US government allow such an accusation against them to stand? It will bring with it a lot of bad press, and public outrage.
The news has been released today that BP has pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Does this mean that this story about a lack of culpability has no grounding?
It is also interesting to note that two BP employees have been singled out and charged with manslaughter which can result in as much as 20-25 years in prison. How have two people been charged in such a way?
It really does seem surprising, but unfortunately it is true.
The two highest-ranking BP supervisors aboard the rig will face a range of manslaughter and other charges. The two BP Plc employees will be charged on 23 criminal counts related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
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