NY Times draws the wrong lessons from Deepwater Horizon

Bruce Thompson
The New York Times has come out with an editorial whitewash of governemnt incompetence, "Lessons of the Deepwater Horizon." The oncoming court battle between BP and its contractors against the government and its National Incident Command will bring the issue to the front pages. The editorial is notable for two reasons. 

First, it ignores the question, what really happened during the 16 hour news blackout during the top kill operation in late May? Other than a unilateral drilling moratorium that is. And it totally ignores the Times' own reporting by John M. Broder on July 16, 2010:

In an interview Thursday, Dr. Chu said that if he had understood geology and well technology better in the early days after the April 20 blowout, he might have urged a faster attempt at the top kill, which involved shooting mud and other gunk to clog up the damaged blowout preventer atop the gushing well. The delay, he said, might have allowed pressure to increase in the well, rendering the attempt fruitless when it was tried at the end of May. [SNIP]

His role gradually deepened as he assembled a team of scientists from the Department of Energy laboratories, universities and other government agencies. By late May, his confidence had grown and he was giving orders to BP officials, including his demand to stop the top kill effort even though some BP engineers believed it could still succeed.

"A lot of us said 'don't start it,' and he was the one who said 'stop,' " said a BP technician who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the company. "But having done all we had already done, I thought we should have completed the final two operations. He was not keen to listen. BP people said, 'Let's try these last two steps,' but he said, 'No, stop.' "

The other issue is that the Times editorial board set the expectations extremely high when they wrote:

The cost of the Deepwater Horizon blowout has been huge in both lost income and natural resource damage. The ultimate tally to BP and its partners could run as high as $40 billion, with civil penalties. The inescapable bottom line is that if industry wants to keep drilling, it needs to commit fully and completely to doing things differently. As do the regulators.

So they expect the government to win really big on the civil penalties. Anyone who has bothered to read the Chief Counsel's Report,  the Tyagi Report, and the Coast Guard's Incident Specific Preparedness Review would not be so sanguine. 

The New York Times has come out with an editorial whitewash of governemnt incompetence, "Lessons of the Deepwater Horizon." The oncoming court battle between BP and its contractors against the government and its National Incident Command will bring the issue to the front pages. The editorial is notable for two reasons. 

First, it ignores the question, what really happened during the 16 hour news blackout during the top kill operation in late May? Other than a unilateral drilling moratorium that is. And it totally ignores the Times' own reporting by John M. Broder on July 16, 2010:

In an interview Thursday, Dr. Chu said that if he had understood geology and well technology better in the early days after the April 20 blowout, he might have urged a faster attempt at the top kill, which involved shooting mud and other gunk to clog up the damaged blowout preventer atop the gushing well. The delay, he said, might have allowed pressure to increase in the well, rendering the attempt fruitless when it was tried at the end of May. [SNIP]

His role gradually deepened as he assembled a team of scientists from the Department of Energy laboratories, universities and other government agencies. By late May, his confidence had grown and he was giving orders to BP officials, including his demand to stop the top kill effort even though some BP engineers believed it could still succeed.

"A lot of us said 'don't start it,' and he was the one who said 'stop,' " said a BP technician who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the company. "But having done all we had already done, I thought we should have completed the final two operations. He was not keen to listen. BP people said, 'Let's try these last two steps,' but he said, 'No, stop.' "

The other issue is that the Times editorial board set the expectations extremely high when they wrote:

The cost of the Deepwater Horizon blowout has been huge in both lost income and natural resource damage. The ultimate tally to BP and its partners could run as high as $40 billion, with civil penalties. The inescapable bottom line is that if industry wants to keep drilling, it needs to commit fully and completely to doing things differently. As do the regulators.

So they expect the government to win really big on the civil penalties. Anyone who has bothered to read the Chief Counsel's Report,  the Tyagi Report, and the Coast Guard's Incident Specific Preparedness Review would not be so sanguine.