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.
The comments came in a hearing in which lawmakers grilled senior executives from BP and oilfield service firms Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron, maker of the blowout preventer. In one exchange, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) pressed BP on why it seemed to be “flailing” to deal with a spill only 2 percent as large as what it had said it could handle in its license application.
“The American people expect you to have a response comparable to the Apollo project, not ‘Project Runway,’ ” Markey said.
And from McClatchy. It’s now criminal?
WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are likely to file criminal charges against at least one of the companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico spill, raising the prospects of significantly higher penalties than a current $75 million cap on civil liability, legal experts say.
The inquiry by the Homeland Security and Interior Departments into how the spill occurred is still in its early stages and authorities have not confirmed whether a criminal investigation has been launched.
But environmental law experts say it’s just a matter of time until the Justice Department steps in – if it hasn’t already – to initiate a criminal inquiry and take punitive action.
“There is no question there’ll be an enforcement action,” said David M. Uhlmann, who headed the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section for seven years during the Clinton and Bush administrations. “And, it’s very likely that there will be at least some criminal charges brought.”