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Oil Spill Blame Game: Rig Owner & Sub Point Fingers at BP, Which Points Back

Posted May 11, 2010 6:20 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As Senate committee hearings began today on the oil rig explosion and resulting massive undersea well leak that has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for three weeks, two things were clear.

First, it still isn't known what, exactly, caused the fatal accident, which killed 11 workers. Second, each of the three companies involved wants to blame the others for the explosion, fire and oil leak, according to the Associated Press and New York Times (reg. req.).

"I hear one message—don't blame me," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. "Shifting the blame game doesn't get us very far."

BP, which owned and operated the undersea oil well, has been pointing the finger at blowout preventer equipment that was supposed to shut off oil flow in an emergency but reportedly didn't, noting that it had been modified. However, Transocean Ltd., which owned the drilling rig and safety equipment, said the blowout preventer system was modified at BP's direction, according to Reuters.

Further, there is no reason to believe that the blowout preventers, in fact, didn't work, and they certainly weren't the "root cause" of the explosion, said Transocean CEO Steven Newman.

Meanwhile, there are also potential issues concerning the concrete cap that subcontractor Halliburton Inc. was installing to seal the exploratory well for future use in accord with BP's drilling plan, reports CBS News. The blowout protection equipment would have been removed very soon anyway, Newman testified, because the concrete seal was in place.

"The attention now being given to the BOPs in this case is somewhat ironic because at the time of the explosion, the drilling process was complete," he said. "The well had been sealed with casing and cement, and within a few days, the BOPs would have been removed. At this point, the well barriers—the cementing and the casing—were responsible for controlling any pressure from the reservoir."

The inquiry also focused on why lighter seawater had been substituted for a heavy "mud" compound routinely used to seal over such capped wells, another AP article reports.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Class Action Suits Are Filed Over Gulf Oil Spill; Leak Could Be Gushing 25K Barrels Daily"

Houston Chronicle: "Deepwater Horizon fire and oil spill news"

E² Wire (The Hill): "BP lobbyist pledges to ‘do the right thing’ in paying for Gulf oil spill damages"

Reuters: "Obama wants to beef up law on oil spill damage cap"

Center for Public Integrity: "Training Exercises Showed Gaps in Government Preparedness Before BP Oil Spill"

Telegraph: "Mapping BP's oil spill "

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