DOJ seeks truce in BP oil spill
Mark Schleifstein of the New Orleans Times Picayune reports:
The U.S. Justice Department will file a motion to approve a proposed $20.8 billion settlement of civil claims between BP and federal, state and local governments stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill on March 31, a federal judge announced Wednesday (March 2). Justice officials also will file copies of public comments they have received on the proposed settlement.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier made the announcement in an order filed Wednesday cancelling a March 23 hearing he had tentatively scheduled on the consent decree that includes the settlement. Barbier said that once the motion is filed, he will review it and any comments or objections that were submitted with it, and take the proposal under advisement.
Now Judge Barbier must consider the fairness of the settlement before approving it. Is it fair? Obviously, there is much to view as just. But there are also parts of the settlement that are not. Let us start with the DOJ’s miserable record of obtaining convictions in its criminal prosecutions. The Wall Street Journal front-page headline reads, "U.S. Bid to Prosecute BP Staff Falls Flat." The subhead reads, "Judges dismissed charges related to Gulf oil spill; tally: 3 misdemeanors." The list covers five criminal prosecutions. The targets can be separated into three groups.
One is actually a Halliburton employee! CBS News reported:
Prosecutors said that in May 2010, Badalamenti directed a senior program manager to run computer simulations on centralizers, which are used to keep the casing centered in the wellbore. The results indicated there was little difference between using six or 21 centralizers. The data could have supported BP's decision to use the lower number.
Badalamenti is accused of instructing the program manager to delete the results. The program manager "felt uncomfortable" about the instruction but complied, according to prosecutors.
A different Halliburton employee also deleted data from a separate round of simulations at the direction of Badalamenti, who was acting without the authorization of the company, prosecutors said.
Note that in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, in May 2010, while the well control efforts were scrambling to do something that had never been done before, Halliburton was destroying exculpatory evidence! Guilty!
The next two are BP’s well site leaders (aka company men) Robert Kaluza (the day shift WSL) and Donald Vidrine (the night shift WSL). Kaluza was acquitted; Vidrine entered a guilty plea. Vidrine was the man in charge the night the blowout occurred. Fair?
That brings us to Kurt Mix, a BP drilling engineer, and David Rainey, a BP vice president. Both became directly involved after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon took place. How can someone who did not participate in the decision-making process before the blowout be held responsible for the blowout and spill?
The case against Mr. Rainey charged him with “Obstruction of Congress.” The case fell apart when Democrat congressional aides declined to testify under oath. Note that Democrat congressmen and women can lie under oath on the floor without fear of prosecution because of Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution:
...for any Speech or Debate in either House, [Senators and Representatives] shall not be questioned in any other Place.
Mr. Rainey was acquitted. Fair?
Now we come to the key prosecution, that of Kurt Mix. I have long been of the opinion that Mr. Mix was being unfairly treated. Mr. Mix recently wrote an op-ed, "I Was an Oil Spill Scapegoat," originally published in the Wall Street Journal. He now has a website to tell his own story.
Looking back now at the Justice Department’s conduct, I realize that I made one egregious error: I naïvely believed that the task force simply wanted the truth.
Check out the timeline on his website. One thing I never saw reported anywhere and therefore did not know myself is shown on September 16, 2010:
The relief well casing program, well intercept, and hydraulic kill -- designed and executed by a team on which Kurt served as project lead -- successfully intercepts and seals the blown-out Macondo Well over 13,000 feet below the sea floor
Now we know why the DOJ attacked his credibility so intensely. Kurt Mix was “the project lead” who successfully intercepted and sealed the blown out Macondo well. They wanted to shut him up. He would not fit their “narrative.”
Kurt Mix is the hero of the BP oil spill.
He needs to be heard. Judge Barbier ought to call him as a witness. He has been treated extremely unfairly.
And Judge Barbier should call Sen. Ed Markey to answer for his and his aides’ behavior. Make them take the Fifth in open court. He should also call former assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division Lanny Arthur Breuer, who signed the Mix indictment, to answer for why he brought such a meritless indictment. Make them testify under oath. Could we see discipline against them for obstruction of justice, perjury, and/or contempt of court by Judge Barbier?