[Marxism] The fix is in

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 8 12:54:10 MST 2010

NY Times November 8, 2010
Spill Investigator Sees No Sign That Cost Trumped Safety

WASHINGTON — The lead investigator for the presidential panel 
investigating the BP oil spill said on Monday that he had found no 
evidence that anyone involved in drilling the doomed well had 
taken safety shortcuts to save money.

Fred H. Bartlit Jr., a prominent trial lawyer hired to lead the 
panel’s inquiry, disputed the findings of other investigators, 
including members of Congress, who have charged that BP and its 
main partners, Transocean and Halliburton, had cut corners to 
speed completion of the well, which cost $1.5 million a day to drill.

“To date we have not seen a single instance where a human being 
made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety,” Mr. 
Bartlit said on Monday. The statement came near the beginning of a 
detailed presentation Mr. Bartlit gave on the causes of the April 
20 disaster on a drilling rig off the Louisiana coast, which 
killed 11 workers and led to the biggest offshore oil spill in 
American history.

“A lot has been said about this, but we have not found a situation 
where we can say a man had a choice between safety and dollars and 
put his money on dollars,” Mr. Bartlit said. “If anybody has 
anything else to say about that, we’re happy to hear it.”

Mr. Bartlit’s presentation resembled a prosecutor’s opening 
argument in a major criminal trial. He used elaborate graphics to 
illustrate the complex technology used on the BP well, known as 
the Macondo well, as he walked the seven-member presidential 
commission and an audience of lawyers, company officials and 
journalists through his preliminary findings.

He said, however, that his purpose was to explain, not to accuse. 
“We are not assigning blame,” Mr. Bartlit said. “We are not making 
any legal judgments on liability, negligence or gross negligence 
or any legal issues at all. It’s a hard thing to do. Our effort is 
to look at cause, not liability.”

President Obama appointed the commission, led by Bob Graham, a 
former Democratic senator and governor from Florida, and William 
K. Reilly, the administrator of the Environmental Protection 
Agency under President George H. W. Bush. The panel’s tasks are to 
find the root causes of the accident and to make recommendations 
for new regulations and drilling practices by the middle of January.

The first part of Mr. Bartlit’s presentation focused on BP’s well 
design and the repeated problems that BP and Halliburton 
encountered in preparing the well for cementing, a process meant 
to keep oil and gas, which are under high pressure in the well, 
from exploding up the well bore.

The commission staff has concluded that problems with the cement 
job were a major cause of the well disaster, although Mr. Bartlit 
emphasized on Monday that a deepwater well was a complicated 
system and that no single error or flaw was solely responsible for 
the disaster.

Mr. Bartlit said that he could not reach any conclusions about one 
critical component in the well, the blowout preventer, which is 
supposed to be the last line of defense against a well going out 
of control. The blowout preventer that was on the Macondo well is 
in the hands of federal agents as possible evidence in criminal 
and civil trials. The government has hired a Norwegian engineering 
firm to examine it and determine whether and how it may have 
failed. Mr. Bartlit said that his investigation would not be 
complete until he had the results of that study.

Monday’s hearing also did not resolve the question of whether BP 
made a fatal error by failing to install a sufficient number of 
“centralizers,” devices used to keep the drill casing centered 
within the well bore. Halliburton, the cement contractor, has said 
that the decision on centralizers was part of the reason the 
cement job failed. BP disputes that contention.

But it was clear from internal BP documents presented at the 
hearing that BP’s well design contributed to the accident, because 
it did not allow for sufficient barriers to the upward explosion 
of oil and gas from the 18,000-foot-deep well.

Mr. Bartlit also warned the companies involved to refrain from 
“bickering” and from making self-serving statements intended to 
avoid liability in what will probably become an epic legal battle 
over the costs of the disaster.

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