- On April 20, an initial explosion, then a larger one
ignited BP's Deepwater Horizon platform. For over a day it burned before
sinking, killing 11 crew members, releasing thousands of barrels of oil
daily, and causing the greatest ever environmental disaster - criminal
malfeasance by any standard.
- Years from now, its full impact will be known, but already
hundreds of thousands of people are harmed, local economies gravely impacted,
and large parts of the Gulf contaminated by toxic hydrocarbons and dispersants,
making seafood absolutely unsafe to eat.
- Obama, administration officials, the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and BP executives lied, claiming
most oil disappeared, 96% of Gulf waters were safe and reopened, and seafood
was safe to eat. False, according to mounting evidence confirming:
- -- layers of oil residue contaminating several thousand
square miles of seafloor;
- -- elevated hydrocarbon levels in Gulf residents' blood,
suggesting an epidemic of future illnesses, including cancer and others
- -- massive dispersants use prevented clean-up by skimming;
- -- no practical way now to clean up spilled oil; and
- -- dispersants bioaccumulate, making oil toxins more
bioavailable to sealife, easier to absorb, and more harmful if ingested.
- The effects will linger for decades, maybe generations,
making critics wonder if willful intent was involved, given evidence, including:
- -- Washington and BP complicity in misreporting, coverup
and denying the disaster's severity from start to capping to the most recent
- -- virtual confirmation of the greatest ever environmental
crime, contaminating large portions of the Gulf; destroying basic food
chain elements that are building blocks for fisheries, birds, sea turtles
and mammal populations; polluting coastal shorelines; and causing a massive
public health problem with no federal aid to inform and mitigate;
- -- irreparable harm to the lives and livelihoods of potentially
millions of Gulf residents; and
- -- BP's history of violations, exposing the industry's
worst safety, maintenance, and environmental record, yet nearly always
able to escape with small fines, penalties and settlements; no prosecutions;
no pressure to operate responsibly; and no curtailment of government-let
contracts, so no reason not to continue business as usual.
- Yet after BP declared the Macondo well dead last September,
the event died with it, disappearing from major media reports that were
complicit with BP and Obama officials by misreporting it from the start.
- No wonder critics ask: was Macondo's blowout accidental
or willful? Was deliberate sabotage involved? Were the Obama administration
and BP complicit in the greatest ever environmental crime with enormous
global consequences? If so, why?
- A November report showed BP ignored warning signs and
used inadequate procedures to secure Macondo's integrity. Jointly prepared
by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and National Research Council
(NRC), it said:
- "failures and missed indications of hazards were
not isolated events during the preparation of the Macondo well for temporary
abandonment. Numerous (faulty) decisions (preceded) abandonment despite
indications of hazards, such as the results of repeated negative-pressure
tests, suggest an insufficient consideration of risk and a lack of operating
- As a result, safety was virtually ignored, including
employee warnings that Macondo was a disaster waiting to happen. Moreover,
the report found BP used only six centralizers (well casing centering devices
in the wellbore) even though "modeling results suggested that many
more (were) needed."
- BP also didn't incorporate a "float shoe" at
the well casing bottom - a devise containing a check valve to automatically
activate in case of emergency. It's a vital extra precaution not used.
In addition, BP chose not to remove drilling mud without first installing
a "lockdown sleeve" on the production casing's wellhead seals.
It would have protected against shifting position built up pressure.
- The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service,
its regulatory arm, was also cited for "not hav(ing) formal training
and certification....for its inspectors." It means incompetents, not
professionals, were in charge, leaving BP unregulated despite its poor
safety, maintenance and environmental record - a red flag begging for close
- Most important is that longstanding safe operating practices
would have prevented disaster, yet BP ignored them. Minimally, willful
negligence should be charged. However, deliberate malfeasance is more accurate,
revealing a manufactured crime for corporate gain despite short-term costs.
Obvious red flags included:
- -- suspicious BP stock transactions;
- -- CEO Tony Hayward sold about one-third of his holdings
weeks before the explosion;
- -- Goldman Sachs sold BP stock worth over $250 million
in Q I 2010, 44% of its investment: what did they, not the public, know?
- -- Enormous Big Oil/Wall Street pressure was exerted
to enact Obama-supported cap and trade legislation; after House passage,
it stalled in the Senate.
- The bill would have let corporate polluters reap huge
windfall profits by charging consumers more for energy, and also create
a new bubble through carbon trading derivatives speculation.
- It was about profits, not environmental protection, especially
a potential $10 trillion market for derivatives speculation, a plum needing
an environment crisis to enact, like last summer's salmonella scare. It
provided impetus for lame duck session passage of the Food Safety Modernization
Act - a food tyranny measure, benefitting agribusiness at the expense of
small farmers and consumers.
- Cap and trade is a stealth scheme to license pollution,
raise energy prices, and provide a huge bonanza through carbon trading
derivatives speculation. Corporate interests badly want it. It remains
if the 112th Congress will oblige.
- New York Times Deepwater Horizon Information
- On December 25, writers David Barstow, David Rohde and
Stephanie Saul headlined, "Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours,"
- Months after the disaster, "Investigators have dissected
BP's well design and Halliburton's cementing work, uncovering problem after
problem." Besides attention on the failed blowout protector (BOP),
the explosion "escaped intense scrutiny, as if" one problem caused
the other. False.
- Deepwater Horizon "had formidable and redundant
defenses against even the worst blowout. It was equipped to divert surging
oil and gas safely away from the rig. It had devices to quickly seal off
a well blowout or to break free from it. It had systems to prevent gas
from exploding and sophisticated alarms that would quickly warn the crew
at the slightest trace of gas." The crew practiced responding to alarms,
fires and blowouts, and "it was blessed with experienced leaders who
clearly cared about safety."
- In fact, Deepwater Horizon's disaster shouldn't have
happened, yet it did. Why suggests willful malfeasance, given the huge
profit potential involved, as explained above. Eleven lost lives, many
injuries, billions in cost affecting one quarter only, a contaminated Gulf,
and potentially millions of harmed coastal residents are inconsequential
- Based on interviews with 21 crew members, documents The
Times obtained, sworn testimonies, and written statements from nearly all
rig survivors, a disturbing picture emerges, especially a singular fact:
- Crew members "died and suffered terrible injuries
because every one of the Horizon's defenses failed on April 20," a
near-impossibility, but it happened. "Some were deployed but did not
work. Some were activated too late, after they had almost certainly been
damaged by fire or explosions. Some were never deployed at all."
- Everything that could go wrong did. Decisive steps weren't
taken. Communications "fell apart." Warning signs were missed
or weren't heeded, and "crew members in critical areas failed to coordinate
a response." Paralysis, breakdown, and disaster resulted. "For
many, the first hint of crisis came in the form of a blast wave."
- Yet crew members weren't trained or prepared to handle
worst type crises. Why not is key for Mocondo, what workers called a "well
from hell," plagued by problems. "Heavy drilling fluid, called
mud, kept disappearing into formation cracks. Less mud meant less weight
bearing down on the oil and gas that were surging up. This set off violent
'kicks' of gas and oil that sent the (rig's team) scrambling to control
- In March, trouble halted operations for nine days. It
was a hint of worse to come, and just a matter of time before occurring.
Management should have taken extra precautions. Failure begs the question.
Why not? Instead of instituting fail safe measures, they were systematically
avoided. "In effect, they were daring the well to blow out."
On April 20, it obliged.
- What shouldn't and under safe operating conditions couldn't
happen, in fact, did. Once the BOP failed, nothing stopped oil and gas
from "racing up the Horizon's riser pipe. Nine minutes later came
the first explosion."
- The crew trained for blowouts. Procedure called for "quickly
installing a special valve on the drill pipe....Only minutes before the
blowout, the drill shack" got "puzzling pressure readings"
and sensed trouble. "The industry (long believed) BOPs were 'the ultimate
fail-safe' " device.
- Transocean said Horizon's BOP couldn't prevent blowouts
this extreme. However, evidence shows poor maintenance crippled it. Its
problems included dead batteries, bad solenoid valves, and leaking hydraulic
lines. None should have happened, and all could have easily been fixed.
- Yet they were "overlooked and ignored." Willful
negligence or criminal malfeasance? Either way is damning, especially for
an industry major with decades of expertise. Failure was inexcusable, suggesting
- "Transocean (also) never performed an expensive
90-day maintenance inspection that the manufacturer said should be done
every three to five years." So do industry and federal regulations.
- Despite two explosions, Horizon still shouldn't have
sunk. Disconnecting the rig from the BOP would have cut off the fire's
main fuel source, giving rig and crew a fighting chance. Witnesses differ
on details, but agree on one basic point: "even with Horizon burning,
powerless and gutted by explosions, there was still resistance to the strongest
possible measure that might save the rig."
- However, Horizon's "death knell....was the emergency
disconnect system itself. Like so many of the rig's defenses, it failed"
for unexplained reasons. "Horizon was still handcuffed to the well
from hell." Evacuating fast was essential.
- Major unaddressed problems, initial explosions, subsequent
small ones, intense heat, and poor evacuation drills left 11 crew members
dead. Their epitaph should indict BP officials and complicit Obama officials
for homicide. Justice demands holding them accountable.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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