BP Said Negligence May Be Found in Cause of Oil Spill, Texas Letter Shows


A BP Plc lawyer said evidence would show that an April explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico were the result of gross negligence, Texas officials said in a letter that didn’t say who committed the alleged negligence.

Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott said in the July 22 letter that BP didn’t attempt to take advantage of a cap on damages under the Oil Pollution Act because gross negligence would make that irrelevant. The letter was addressed to Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for exploration and production, and Jack Lynch, a general counsel.

“During a conference call with Gulf Coast attorneys general, BP General Counsel Jack Lynch acknowledged that gross negligence would be revealed as a cause of the explosion that led to the oil spill,” Perry and Abbott wrote.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owns 25 percent of the damaged Macondo well that gushed oil into the Gulf, hasn’t paid London-based BP for spill-related costs. The company said in June that BP’s actions “likely represent gross negligence or willful misconduct.” A unit of Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., which has a 10 percent stake in the well, also has withheld reimbursement.

Anadarko has said gross negligence or willful misconduct would affect the parties’ obligations under the operating agreement. BP has a 65 percent stake and is the operator of the well.

Seeking Money

BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, who will be replaced on Oct. 1 by Robert Dudley, has said BP will “vigorously” pursue its partners on the well for costs. BP didn’t immediately respond to requests to comment on the letter or to make Lynch available for an interview.

BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said in an interview with Bloomberg Television this week the company doesn’t believe it will be found grossly negligent or will be the sole responsible party, citing information learned from public hearings.

Spokesmen for Anadarko and a unit of Mitsui Oil declined to comment. Mitsui Oil is 70 percent-owned by Japan’s second- biggest trading house, Mitsui & Co.

The Texas governor’s office confirmed the authenticity of the letter, part of the state’s attempt to collect $25 million from BP for spill-related costs.

Transocean Ltd., which leased to BP the Deepwater Horizon rig that caught fire April 20, and Halliburton Co., which provided cementing on the project, declined to comment.

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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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