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BP: It Isn't Over Until It's Over
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BP: It Isn't Over Until It's Over

Just when we thought it was safe to go back into the water -- we find out it's not. How much do we have to know, to know we just don't know? When it comes to BP and its Deepwater Horizon disaster, knowledge is an onion that keeps on peeling. In a new 37 page objection to BP's legal claims, the U.S Government, the State of Alabama and the State of Louisiana, charge the oil giant with, "corporate recklessness" and "willful misconduct."

Did many of us really think that what happened in the heart in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 -- the contaminating of off-shore waters with five million barrels of oil and over two million gallons of dispersants -- would go away as soon as the tar was off the beach? BP is banking on it.

U.S. government lawyers claim BP has lied, covered-up and misled the public to the amount of oil released, the amount of dispersant applied, the permanent devastation to the coral, number of deceased dolphins, absence of plankton and the amount of wetlands destroyed.

But the complaint doesn't stop there; the United States District Court Eastern District of Louisiana -- case 2:10-md-02179-CJB-SS -- details the gross negligence in a chronological format. Emails, phone transcripts and in-house communiqués which demonstrate BP's campaign to minimize their reckless behavior and willful misconduct at the expense of the truth.

The action taken against BP is on the eve of their attempt to finalize a $7.8 billion settlement with thousands of Gulf Coast residents and businesses harmed by the spill. The U.S. Justice Department's top environmental lawyer and New Orleans U.S. Attorney, Jim Letten, charges in the 37-page submission that BP's claims were misleading, non-conclusive and often false.

In an NBC interview, BP spokesman Craig Savage said, "BP has sent more than $150 million to Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to aid tourism, and will shell out $30 million more by the end of 2013. Another $82 million was committed for seafood marketing and testing." BP claims to have spent $14 billion in clean-up costs.

Officials challenge the amounts, claiming far more had been spent on the advertisements and promotions. BP contributed more and sooner to hotels and resorts that would expedite themselves as 'open for business,' which in return, helped BP downsize the perception of disaster.

Neither the U.S. government nor Alabama have a stake in the $7.8 billion settlement. Both are pursuing their own civil case, and the federal government has an ongoing criminal investigation against BP.

The filing focuses of vital emails prior to the rig explosion on April 20, 2010

The Emails

On April 17, 2010, BP's Houston-based "Wells Team Leader" for the Macondo well, John Guide, e-mailed David Sims, another Houston-based BP executive and Guide's boss:

- David, over the past four days there has been so many last minute changes to the operation that the WSL's [BP's rig-based Well Site Leaders] have finally come to their wits end. The quote is 'flying by the seat of our pants.' Moreover, we have made a special boat or helicopter run every day. Everybody wants to do the right thing, but, this huge level of paranoia from engineering leadership is driving chaos. This operation is not Thunderhorse. Brian [BP's Brian Morel, a Houston-based engineer] has called me numerous times trying to make sense of all the insanity. Last night's emergency evolved around the 30 [barrels] of cement spacer behind the top plug and how it would affect any bond logging (I do not agree with putting the spacer above the plug to begin with). This morning Brian called me and asked my advice about exploring opportunities both inside and outside of the company. What is my authority? With the separation of engineering and operations, I do not know what I can and can't do. The operation is not going to succeed if we continue in this manner. (end)

The same day, David Sims responded to Guide's e-mail.

- John, I've got to go to dance practice in a few minutes. Let's talk this afternoon. . . . We've both [been] in Brian's position before. The same goes for him. We need to remind him that this is a great learning opportunity, it will be over soon, and that the same issues - or worse - exist anywhere else . . . I'll be back soon and we can talk. We're dancing to the Village People. (end)

Three days later, April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon Rig (Macondo) exploded killing 11 workers.

According to the filed civil action document: "John Guide e-mail of April 17th," David Sims never talked to Guide to follow up on his warnings about "paranoia ... chaos ... insanity ..., and his last sentence: "The operation is not going to succeed if we continue in this manner."

What Happened

Mark Bly, BP's Head of Safety and Operations, conducted a 190-page report (The Bly Report) identifying the cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. His report suggests that a sequence of failures involving a number of different parties led to the disaster.

The Bly Report only addresses activities that occurred just prior to the blow-out explosion. It identifies a perfect storm of calamities, used a "swiss cheese" metaphor and a diagram to match, but never mentioned e-mails, or poor management decisions. Nowhere in the 190 pages does Bly mention the Guide/Sims e-mail of April 17.

The Negative Pressure Test is simple and essential to the safety of the rig. After a well is cemented in, the pressure test first bleeds any build-up pressure out of the well drill pipe and kill line. Once both go to zero, hours later they are checked to make sure the pressure hasn't returned.

On April 20, shortly after the Negative Pressure Test was performed there was evidence of trouble when the kill line stayed at zero and the drill pipe soared to 1,400 PSI. One of the Well Site Leaders had a 10-minute conversation about the buildup with Houston-based BP Senior Engineer Mark Hafle, who said "that couldn't happen," and dismissed the pressure build-up as an anomaly. The rest is history.

Hafle's "corporate recklessness" and improper orders prevented the rig from being shut down right after their 9:02 p.m. phone conversation. Records state: had all been shut down by 9:31 or 9:32 p.m., it wouldn't have blown-up at 9:49 p.m. as it did.

Had David Sims canceled his dance lesson and yielded to John Guide's Email concerns about the extra cement and spacer, and gone to check it out, 11 people may be alive today. There is no doubt the disaster has been a 'learning opportunity' for us all, a lesson we should not forget. Officials see Sim's non-action as a clear case of "willful misconduct," something we should all hope they don't forget.

In 2011, the top five oil companies made $139 billion in profits. The same five received $8 billion in tax breaks. One has to wonder why there isn't a "truth clause" put into them. Present false testimony or falsify documents and you lose the tax status. In the real world, with real people, that is most often the rule and if corporations are people ...?

This week, Hurricane Isaac dug-up some more of BP's buried bones, dispersing oil globs on to more than 20 miles of Louisiana beach, and it tested positive as Mocondo well oil. Many millions of gallons of oil that came from the Mocondo well have not been accounted for, so we can expect that it may surface for many more years to come.

It isn't over until it is over.

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