Deepwater Horizon: Who's Lying to Congress?

Now that the Justice Department has charged a BP executive, David Rainey, with lying to Congress regarding the flow rate from the BP Macondo 252 well, it makes sense to examine the quality and veracity of the government's own witnesses whom we might expect to be called to testify against him. If the government is to convict Rainey, they will have to prove he was wrong. The Obama Administration's thesis is available in the reports by the president's Oil Spill Commission, which did its work under co-chairmen former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and William K. Reilly, Founding Partner of Aqua International Partners LP.

Their commission issued a "final" report on January 11, 2011 and the chairmen testified as to its contents before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on January 26, 2011. The final transcript of that hearing, along with their answers to the follow-up questions, is available here. The official website for the commission is available here. The first thing to note is that despite the misleading title to their "Final" report, is that it really wasn't really final, since as the chairmen admitted, there was more information that would be forthcoming on February 17, 2011 in the Chief Counsel's Report. By withholding information then in the possession of the commission's chief counsel, the chairmen may have lied to Congress. We do know that the chairmen were provided with an opportunity to amend and correct their testimony by submitting written responses to the subcommittee that were then incorporated in the final transcript of the hearing. There are multiple references to the Chief Counsel's Report in that transcript.

Let us turn to that transcript to see if there still exist any falsehoods offered under oath. Paraphrasing Warner Wolf, "Let's go to the videotape."

Count One [Text taken from page 72, (page 76 of the pdf file)]

Question: According to press reports, after the Commission released some of its findings, companies came forward with information that rebutted specific statements in the Commission's report. Since the Commission doesn't appear to have incorporated the new information provided after the press leak in the final report, how will that new information be utilized and made available to the public?

Response: The Commission has received no information from companies since the release of the Commission's final report that has refuted any of the Commission's findings and conclusions concerning the causes of the Macondo well blowout and the resulting Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. Chapter 4 of the Commission's final report summarized those findings and conclusions. As promised by that report, moreover, the Commission's Chief Counsel has since released a detailed and full account of those same findings and conclusions in a 350 page technical report. That Chief Counsel's Report describes in exhaustive detail all the engineering and management mistakes made by the three companies that resulted in the well blowout and rig explosion.

This assertion that there has been "no information" refuting the Commission's findings is balderdash! What about the Comments From BP to Oil Spill Commission regarding Draft Staff Working Paper No. 3 (The Amount and Fate of the Oil)? Are the chairmen testifying that BP agrees with the government's estimates in that working paper of the amount of oil spilled, including the 1.28 million barrels (26 per cent of the total 4,928,100 barrels alleged to have been spilled) of missing "residual" oil? Has that oil been found or is it still "missing"? Why can't the Coast Guard find it?

Count Two

Note that the chairmen testified that the commission's findings as to the causes of the accident are in "Chapter 4 of the Commission's final report". Quoting verbatim from the lurid chapter heading in the report:

"But, who cares, it's done, end of story, [we] will probably be fine and we'll get a good cement job."

The problem with this quotation is that it was taken out of context by truncating BP engineer's Brett Cocales' full email message. Here is C-Span videotape from the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) U.S. Coast Guard-Minerals Management Service hearings, conducted under oath, of Mr. Cocales himself discussing that quote with Halliburton's lawyer. Note that the context was whether or not BP used enough centralizers -- it did not refer, as the commission seems to imply, to the blowout itself. Halliburton's excuse for denying any responsibility for the accident is that BP used too few centralizers. A full explanation as to why the number of centralizers was unimportant to the blowout can be found in the conclusions reached by Retired Federal Judge Wayne Andersen, who conducted the JIT hearings, based on his questioning under oath of both Mr. Cocales and Halliburton's cement engineer Jesse Gagliano in my personal blog post Deepwater Horizon -- Six Centraliizers Were Enough.

So which makes a more credible witness, either of the two OSC Chairmen or the presiding judge in the JIT Investigation? Judge Andersen isn't buying the insufficient centralizers meme as the cause of the blowout, but then again he does not get campaign contributions from Halliburton, as many politicians do! And the chairmen were political appointees of President Obama and were not confirmed by the Senate, as federal judges are.


While the technical issues raised by this accident are beyond the ken of the average citizen, I would like to remind everyone that on page 42 of the Chief Counsel's Report Chapter 4.1, the Chief Counsel himself states "Forensic Evidence Suggests That Hydrocarbons Did Not Flow up the Annulusand Through the Seal Assembly", which is exactly where the hydrocarbons would have flowed if the centralizers had been an issue. His findings are that the hydrocarbons flowed up through the shoe track and inside the production casing, not outside it in the ring-shaped space between the production casing and the well bore in the rock, the "annulus". This was confirmed when the relief well finally intersected the annulus in September 2010 and found no hydrocarbons present. That fact was known to the government through the National Incident Command which had legal authority over all drilling operations and which had FBI agents on hand to witness the proceedings as the relief well intersection was completed.

So why hasn't the FBI sought charges against the co-chairmen of the President's Oil Spill Commission for lying to Congress? Does Obama's Department of Justice believe in unequal justice favoring big government over the citizenry?

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