Bungled Access to Blowout Preventer


Okay, remember the the ironically named “blowout preventer” that apparently failed to stop the BP oil spill. The rig was owned by Transocean and the blowout device was made by a company called Cameron International. You’ll never guess who is helping conduct the “forensic analysis.”

Both Transocean and Cameron are involved, which is a bit like letting a shooting suspect handle the ballistics testing, but things are not going well. In a glimpse of ongoing legal strategies, the Associated Press is reporting that Transocean is refusing to honor subpoenas from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, arguing that the agency does not have jurisdiction. The Safety Board not only wants documents, but also sworn testimony from maybe a half-dozen employees.

The legal issue is certainly interesting: Was the Deepwater Horizon a stationary facility or a ship merely tethered to the site? If it’s stationary, the Safety Board clearly has jurisdiction, but if it’s a ship at sea that may be different. Remember that Transocean has previously tried to use maritime law to its advantage, and this clearly indicates that strategy remains a top priority.

But step back for a minute and realize that now, moving into Month Nine of this disaster, we have our leading suspects “helping” with key evidence. Never mind that the equipment was pulled from the Gulf floor on Sept. 4, and testing didn’t even begin until Nov. 16 – and by the way, it’s not really “testing.” The AP notes that “…technicians have mostly been disassembling it so far.”

The Safety Board is asserting that having the companies “hands on” in the process undermines the credibility of the results. Ya think? Look, many Gulf residents don’t stop there – given Big Oil’s too-cozy relationship with regulators and the Coast Guard’s virtual advocacy of BP, we worry that the BOEMRE is leading the “team” investigating the blowout preventer.

But along with the obvious problems with custody of evidence, you have to watch the “ship at sea” strategy as this issue moves forward.

The AP report by Harry R. Weber is making its way viral, but here’s the Yahoo News posting: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101230/ap_on_re_us/us_gulf_oil_spill_investigation_4

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This