BP, Transocean accused of criminal negligence and victim manipulation

Image of "what it looks like, four thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven feet down, when oil gushes into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of thousands of barrels a day" from Amy Davidson.

(Updated*)

Now is a precarious moment in the timeline of the oil spill disaster. Media interest in the story is tapering, and it will only take one professional athlete to cheat on his wife for the press to entirely forget about the 210,000 barrels gallons of oil that haemorrhage into the ocean every day. *(Some scientists put the figure as high as 70,000 barrels, which is 2.9 million gallons/day. That’s the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez every four days.)

While the media’s interest wanders, BP (Deepwater Horizon’s leaser) and Transocean (owner of the DH rig), have entered a full court press, and are hustling to control the narrative of the disaster.

Previously, I detailed how BP swiftly tried to buy off the coastal spill victims. TPM also reported that Transocean swarmed the rescued workers who were brought ashore following the explosion, and presented them with forms stating they had not been injured and that they had no first-hand knowledge of what happened.

Some of the workers claim they were coerced into signing the forms, which Transocean denies.

It behooves BP and Transocean to move really swiftly to discredit these kinds of potential witnesses, and future lawsuit plaintiffs, considering the companies could be looking at criminal negligence charges.

A House energy panel investigation has found that the blowout preventer that failed to stop a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a “useless” test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil.

In a devastating review of the blowout preventer, which BP said was supposed to be “fail-safe,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on oversight, said Wednesday that documents and interviews show that the device was anything but.

Yikes. Short of diving out the windows, the only thing BP and Transocean can do right now is attempt to shape public opinion by carefully releasing photos that show only workers diligently working to clean up the mess, and pray the photos depicting the true colossal size of the tragedy don’t circulate to a wide audience.

Meanwhile, as environmentalists’ outrage dwindles, Transocean is desperately trying to limit its liability to about $27 million, meaning the company could be sued for no more than that amount in court. Of course, Transocean expects to receive $560 million in insurance money from the loss of the rig.

Halliburton, which cemented the rig, seems to have successfully evaded the bulk of blame, hiding behind the broader targets, BP and Transocean. I know you’ll all be relieved to hear this tiny scandal hasn’t damaged Halliburton’s stock performance.

Evade and wait. If Transocean, BP, and Halliburton can outrun public scrutiny long enough, the media will get distracted eventually, leaving the corporations alone with coastal victims and workers, who they can easily crush in court. This is what happened with Exxon, and this is what will happen again if the media’s eyes wander away from this story.

9 Comments

  1. Not that this something to be proud of, but it’s gallons, not “210,000 barrels of oil.”

    And, not that it’s something to be proud of, but BP was trying to enlist the help of fishermen in the clean-up efforts and the agreement indemnified BP from damages resulting from these clean-up efforts… not damages resulting from spill damage generally. This is the contract in question – http://www.kreweoftruth.com/web/data/documents/Master_Vessel_Charter_Agreement.pdf – and BP has since stripped the indemnity requirements.

  2. Allison Kilkenny

    You’re right about the 210,000 gallons. Fixed!

    As for BP, I was referencing the settlement agreement directed at coastal victims, and not just fishermen. The agreements require that people give up the right to sue in exchange for payment of up to $5,000. (http://blog.al.com/live/2010/05/bp_told_to_stop_circulating_se.html)

  3. winski

    AND, on top of all THIS mis-direction, Trans-Ocean today filed a request in Houston Texas federal court to limit its liability in the lawsuits filed against it to about $27 million. They are using the 1800′s Limitation of Liability Act, a maritime law that allows a vessel owner to limit liability to the value of the vessel and its freight.

    Talk about scumbags !!!

  4. jcalton

    I love you, Allison, but our relationship is starting to get depressing.

  5. From your link: “BP had distributed a contract to fishermen it was hiring that waived their right to sue BP and required confidentiality and other items, sparking protests in Louisiana and elsewhere.” There is no mention of any other contract regarding $5000 payments to residents in general; only this specific contract for cleanup volunteers.

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