BP executive testifies at Gulf oil spill trial

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 26, 2013 at 8:31 pm •  Published: February 26, 2013
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Bea said it was "tragic" and "egregious" that BP didn't apply its own safety program to the Deepwater Horizon before the Macondo well blowout. Transocean owned the rig; BP leased it.

BP lawyer Mike Brock said the company allows contractors like Transocean to take the primary responsibility for the safety of rig operations as long as the contractor's safety system is compatible with BP's — an arrangement that Brock suggested is a standard industry practice.

In his May 2010 congressional testimony, McKay said BP's Operating Management System is "as good as anyone."

"I know of nothing that points me in a direction that we have deficiencies" in the system, McKay said.

As he questioned Bea, Brock recited a long list of steps that BP took to improve safety, citing them as evidence that the company wasn't "cutting corners" on safety.

A plaintiffs' lawyer showed Bea a transcript of a deposition of Tony Hayward, BP's CEO at the time of the disaster. Hayward was asked if the blowout could have been averted if BP had implemented the safety management program in the Gulf.

"There is possible potential," Hayward responded. "Undoubtedly."

Bea said BP's "culture of every dollar counts" was reflected in a May 2009 email sent by BP well team leader John Guide: "The DW Horizon embraced every dollar matters since I arrived 18 months ago," Guide wrote. "We have saved BP millions and no one had to tell us."

"Financially, BP had the resources to effectively put into place a process safety system that could have prevented the Macondo disaster," Bea testified.

BP has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges and has racked up more than $24 billion in spill-related expenses, including cleanup costs, compensation for businesses and individuals, and $4 billion in criminal penalties.

Plaintiffs' attorney Robert Cunningham read portions of the plea agreement as he pressed McKay to say how much responsibility BP takes for the catastrophe. Cunningham noted that nothing in the document assigns blame to specific BP executives.

"That is not written in there. That's true," McKay said.

Two BP rig supervisors, however, have been indicted on manslaughter charges for the workers' deaths and are awaiting a separate trial.

"There were some misinterpretations and mistakes made" on the rig, McKay said.

One of the biggest questions facing Barbier is whether BP acted with gross negligence.

Under the Clean Water Act, a polluter can be forced to pay a minimum of $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil; the fines nearly quadruple to about $4,300 a barrel for companies found grossly negligent, meaning BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion.

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