Saturday, September 28, 2013

Check local listings

The new season of BP Trial begins this week.

Last season, you will recall, was all about "gross negligence."

This time, the plot revolves around "quantification."
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will be presented with conflicting testimony over BP's success at "source control," the halting of the flow of oil from the well after the blowout. The parties are expected to present testimony about that issue for a week.

That will be followed by three weeks focused on "quantification" - determining how much oil was released into the Gulf during the spill.

Barbier will then decide, likely next year, how many billion of dollars BP owes in fines.

Alliances will shift as business partners turn against one another!
Barbier also has limited the number of witnesses and expert reports during the two phases, and urged the parties on each side to consolidate wherever possible.

That has resulted in a temporary alliance for the "source control" portion of the case between the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, made up of attorneys representing private claimants, and two BP contractors - Transocean and Halliburton. The two firms were opponents of the PSC and the government during the first phase of the trial.

Transocean is the owner of the doomed Deepwater Horizon drillship and its employees drilled the well under BP's direction. Halliburton provided the cement and cementing advice to BP.

There will be deceit! 
The aligned parties contend that while BP repeatedly reported to federal officials in April and May 2010 that the oil was flowing at the rate of 5,000 barrels per day or less, the company's own internal experts knew that the flow was much more.
There will be.... murder?  Top Murder!
"After the Macondo blowout, BP repeatedly lied to key decision makers about the flow rate of the well. BP told the Unified Command, the Coast Guard, government scientists, and Congress that the well was flowing at 5,000 barrels per day, when BP's internal estimates showed rates as high as 96,000 barrels per day. These lies and omissions delayed the capping of the well."

Even as the disparate flow estimates were being produced, BP already had on hand a "capping stack," basically a second blowout preventer, that could be placed atop the failed preventer, the aligned parties said. Using it weeks earlier, instead of trying the Top Kill, would have dramatically reduced the amount of spilled oil.

The aligned parties also argued that BP misled federal officials and the public about why the Top Kill method failed, blaming it on the rupture of pressure relief discs in the well. Inspection of the blowout preventer and other well equipment in the aftermath of the accident found no disc failures, though.

Instead, the aligned parties argued BP's deceiving flow estimates led to the failure of Top Kill, because those designing the effort did not factor in the real -- and much higher -- flow rate.
And, of course, the ultimate spoiler: Whatever penalty BP is assessed, it will not be enough money to remedy Louisiana's massive coastal crisis.  
But enjoy the show anyway. Binge-watching, live tweeting, etc. begins Monday morning. 

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