Feds' Charge of Criminal Negligence in Gulf Oil Spill Floundering
On November 8, 2012 Federal Judge Carl Barbier will hear arguments for or against accepting as final the settlement reached between BP and the private sector parties damaged by the Gulf Oil spill. The time period for filing objections ended on August 31st. If the settlement is finalized, it will bring to a close the first of the three phases of the trial, the causes of the accident. The next two phases deal with the intervention phase (i.e. stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico) and assessing the environmental damage. Given that Judge Barbier has already dismissed most of BP's contractors from the suit, and the private sector plaintiffs will have been awarded settlements, we will be left with the central players, BP, Transocean, Halliburton and the various governments, led by the Federal Government, to debate phases two and three.
In an attempt to shape the legal battlefield, the Feds have filed a motion, "Memorandum of the United States of America in Response to 'BP Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion for Final Approval of Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement [REC. DOC. 7114]," seeking to have Judge Barbier find BP to have been criminally negligent in causing the blowout.
In support of their thesis that BP was criminally negligent, their motion states (on page 11 of the pdf)
On April 15th, learning that Halliburton's cement modeling showed that the critical (and ultimately failed) cement job would be subject to "severe channeling" unless 21 "centralizers" were used, BP Houston engineer Brett Cocales caused 15 extra centralizers to be sent to the rig in addition to the six already aboard. The next day, Guide ordered that the extra centralizers not be used. In an e-mail that is striking not only for its cavalier nature, but also its unfortunate lack of prophecy, Cocales succumbed to Guide's demand and e-mailed another BP Houston engineer, "But, who cares, it's done, end of story. Will probably be fine. . . ." [Exh. 7, TREX-01367.]
The Feds may find that argument to be hard to sustain given the statements in the hearing transcripts of the Joint U S Coast Guard - Minerals Management Service Investigation Team (JIT) presided over by retired Federal Judge Wayne Andersen. These hearings were conducted under oath, with all "Parties in Interest" (PIIs) present and represented by legal counsel, unlike the President's Oil Spill Commission report that was not conducted in a judicially fair and acceptable manner and was subsequently ruled inadmissible by Judge Barbier.
Here is a transcript of an exchange between Judge Andersen and Halliburton's cement engineer, Jesse Gagliano
Judge Wayne Andersen: I want to make sure I understand. The reason you thought there should be 21 centralizers was that if there were fewer centralizers then that might result in additional expense because you'd have to re-pour cement and extend the time before that portion of the job was completed, correct?
Jesse Gagliano: Correct. My concern with running the 6 centralizers was channeling. And my concern with that was doing a remedial job, having to perforate and squeeze the production casing. (emphasis added)
JWA: Right. So at that particular time, in listening to your description of it, I'm not hearing that you were afraid that that gas would cause the whole well to blow up.
JWA: Was that a concern in your mind at that time?
JG: No, channeling does not indicate the blowout of a well. My major concern was, having to do remedial work on this well. (emphasis added)
For those of you with a technical bent, you will find a more detailed explanation on my blog.
What this means is that two days after the November election, President Obama's penchant for "leading from behind" will force him to accept a settlement for environmental damages of approximately $3.5 billion, calculated using BP's estimate of about 3.1 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf (down from the feds' inflated 5 million barrels) times the civil negligence fine of $1,100 per barrel. BP has already provided for this amount in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission!
The timing of this ignominious defeat (whatever happened to Ken Salazar's "boot on the neck"?) at the start of the "lame duck session" of Congress could be just the boost our economy could use after the endless campaign by the Obama led Green Energy crowd to destroy America's energy independence. Elect a Republican president and both Houses of Congress and by Thanksgiving our economy could be on the road to full recovery!
I wonder if President Obama has a good Snidley Whiplash impression, Curses foiled again!