The presidential commission investigating the BP Gulf oil spill today challenged claims made in Congress that the oil company and others sacrificed safety to cuts cost.
In preliminary findings issued today, the US panel’s investigators supported many of BP’s own conclusions about what led to the disaster.
The panel’s chief investigator, Fred H Bartlit Jr, announced 13 principal findings, many of which seemed to tally with investigations of the blowout, including BP’s. Mr Bartlit said he agreed with “about 90%” of the company’s own conclusions.
Under commission procedures, Bartlit presented the findings to the seven-member panel.
One determination in particular challenges the narrative that has dominated the headlines and Democratic probes in Congress since the 20 April incident killed 11 and unleashed more than 900M.l of crude into the Gulf of Mexico – that BP made perilous choices to save money.
“We see no instance where a decision-making person or group of people sat there aware of safety risks, aware of costs and opted to give up safety for costs,” Bartlit said. “We do not say everything done was perfectly safe. We’re saying that people have said people traded safety for dollars. We studied the hell out of this. We welcome anybody who gives us something we missed.”
Bartlit said that despite the pressure of operating a rig generating more than £600,000 a day workers ultimately do not want to risk their lives or the lives of others.
“It’s more complicated than that,” he said.
Critics immediately complained. Daniel Becnel, a Louisiana lawyer suing BP and others, called the commission’s finding “absolutely absurd”. He also took issue with Mr Bartlit’s endorsement of BP’s view of events.
“They are pasting over because they know the government is going to be a defendant sooner or later in this litigation,” Mr Becnel said.
According to testimony before the government’s joint investigative panel, the Macondo well project was nearly £37M over budget days before the explosion. That panel has been paying particular attention to the issue of whether money was put ahead of safety.