First witness testifies in BP oil spill trial
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Tuesday 26 February 2013
BP failed to apply its own safety and risk management system to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, in what was a "tragic" and "egregious" oversight, the first witness in a long-awaited civil trial over the 2010 oil spill said.
Robert Bea, an engineering and safety expert from the University of California at Berkeley, took the stand after Judge Carl Barbier began the second day of hearings as the trial unfolding in a New Orleans courtroom.
The case, which brings together numerous claims and counterclaims, and pits the US government, the worst-affected states and scores of private plaintiffs against BP and its partners in the ill-fated deepwater drilling project, could land the London-based oil giant with billions of dollars in penalties on top what it has already spent since the spill. The incident in April 2010 led to the death of 11 rig workers and the release of millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The case will unfold in phases, with the first portion, which is expected to last three months, meant to examine the role of the companies involved.
As well as BP, they include Transocean, which owned the rig that sat atop BP's Macondo oil well; Halliburton, which was contracted by BP to cement the well hole; and Cameron International, which made the blowout preventer, the failsafe device that was meant to shut the flow of oil in case of an emergency. M-I Swaco, which provided drilling fluids and various other materials, is also party to the case.
Mr Bea – who in the past was a consultant for BP, writing reports for and making presentation to the oil giant's management – was called to the stand by the plaintiffs. He was the first witness after day one was taken up by opening statements from the various parties.
Under questioning by Robert Cunningham, a plaintiffs' lawyer, Mr Bea said that ahead of the disaster, BP had failed to implement its own safety and risk management system known as Operating Management System (OMS) at the project. In slides displayed at the trial, former BP chief executive Tony Hayward was shown as acknowledging that the OMS was the cornerstone of BP's safety regime.
"It is a classic failure of management and leadership in BP," Mr Bea, who has studied numerous disasters, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and the levee breaches in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said of the company's oversight.
In an excerpt of a deposition by Mr Hayward recounted during Mr Bea's questioning, the former BP chief was shown as acknowledging that the disaster could potentially have been averted had the system been implemented.
Mr Bea, who is well-known and well-regarded in New Orleans for his work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, also touched on the culture of cost-cutting at BP, which was highlighted in the opening statement on Monday by another plaintiffs' lawyer, Jim Roy.
BP's lawyer, Robert Brock, challenged Mr Bea's testimony later in the day, suggesting during questioning that BP was in fact committed to safety, and pointing to past statements and plaudits.
The trial continues, with testimony and record depositions expected from Lamar Mckay, the head of BP America, and Mr Hayward.
Justin Bieber was one of the hardest hit
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
iJobs Money & Business
Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...
£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...
£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...