BP and Minerals Agency Faulted in Gulf Spill


A breakdown in BP’s management system and a failure to strongly consider risk contributed to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers and flooded the Gulf of Mexico with oil, a preliminary report by a team of scientific experts found on Tuesday.

The report, commissioned by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, was harsh in its criticism of BP, citing the company for a lack of “management discipline” and problems with “delegation of decision making” onboard the Deepwater Horizon.

But the report found no single smoking gun pointing to what led to the disaster, putting blame on BP for several missteps as well as on the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that oversaw offshore drilling at the time of the spill.

The findings, by a 15-member committee of experts with the National Academy of Engineering, were first reported in The Wall Street Journal.

The report said that before the explosion, there was concern even among crew members about who was in charge. They pointed to a “lack of onboard expertise and of clearly defined responsibilities” for costly decisions.

The panel also found that important members of the staff on the rig suffered from insufficient training, and it blamed BP for an inability to recognize red flags before the explosion.

But the report pointed blame at the government, too, specifically the Minerals Management Service, which was dismantled after the accident and replaced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The committee found that the minerals agency had failed to put in place the oversight that could have helped prevent the blast, as well as procedures that could have saved lives.

“Available evidence suggests there were insufficient checks and balances for decisions” involving well safety and abandonment of it during an accident, the report said. The committee’s final report is due out in June.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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