DOJ Opens Criminal Probe Into Oil Spill

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the Department of Justice is opening both civil and criminal probes into the Gulf Oil Spill.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in New Orleans that he planned to “prosecute to the fullest extent of the law” any person or entity that the Justice Department determines has broken the law in connection with the oil spill.

His announcement caused energy stocks to tumble. And
"BP lost 15 percent of its market value during the day’s trading. "

What crimes are being investigated? [More...]

Administration officials said they were reviewing violations of the Clean Water Act, which carries criminal and civil penalties and fines; the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can be used to hold parties responsible for cleanup costs; the Migratory Bird Tree Act and the Endangered Species Act, which provide penalties for injury and death of wildlife.

That's it?

Obama made his own threats earlier today:

President Barack Obama also raised the issue of legal action. "If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region," Mr. Obama said during a White House appearance.

Some see possible fraud charges, although it could be hard to prove.

But to bring a successful criminal case, the government must generally show the defendant knowingly flouted the law or that the pollution was the result of negligence.

"There's a big difference between financial accountability and criminal prosecution, said Paul McNulty, a former U.S. deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush and now at the law firm Baker & McKenzie LLP.

I'd rather see government resources spent on fixing the problem and implementing safeguards to prevent another occurrence. Since the Government doesn't have the ability and expertise to remedy the crisis on its own, it doesn't seem like a good time to be alienating those who might be able to provide a solution by threatening prosecution. Can't that wait?

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    This whole thing is (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Zorba on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 08:24:41 PM EST
    a clusterf.....well, never mind, I was going to write an unacceptable word.  I'm not entirely sure that BP has the only experts on solving this.  There aren't any retired oil company experts who could be consulted?  No engineers, oil rig experts, oceanographers, environmental toxicologists, geologists, etc, who do not work for BP, who could go down there to evaluate the situation and make sure that BP is on the up-and-up and is doing all that is reasonably possible?  I find that hard to believe.

    And what about the experts who work for Exxon (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by klassicheart on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 10:19:55 PM EST
    and every other oil company/oil services company that does off shore drilling...surely they have experts as well who do have technical expertise...why aren't they being enlisted in this?  And it sure doesn't look like that many people are in Louisiana trying to clean up....

    It is hard to believe (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 11:15:05 PM EST
    Good thing nobody has to believe it because it ain't true.  It's beyond me why you imagine BP is doing this as a completely solo act.

    Excellent. (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Dr Molly on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 08:30:15 PM EST
    It's about time they started enforcing environmental laws.

    The government may not have the (5.00 / 5) (#3)
    by KeysDan on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 08:37:09 PM EST
    resources or expertise to cap the well, but that does not mean that like savvy businessman, the problem cannot be "outsourced", or that the administration should not, really, really, take control.  All attempts to either cap the well or to capture the oil have been an epic failure.  Certainly the response should be taken out the hands of BP, who, at best, answer to their stockholders (really, their select Board) and to the government who should answer to the public.  With the best, and only, remaining remedy being the relief wells, there is no need to depend entirely on BP; this can be done by a consortiums of oil producers, e.g. Shell, Pemex, ConocoPhillips and consultants..  And , to me, it does not make sense for our nation to be dependent on resolution of its worst spill by a foreign-based corporation that is, in itself, the target of a criminal, and, of course, civil investigations.  The government, upon its taken over, should institute, immediately, the drilling of a third relief well, and bring in tankers to vacuum up the water/oil in the sea. The latter has not been done, according to BP and its apologists, because the interim efforts required boat space.  Now, we can clear out extraneous boats and make room for some real clean up.

    A single point about outsourcing and (none / 0) (#10)
    by Rojas on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 09:21:21 PM EST
    "savvy businessman". It don't work if  ya' don't have the expertise. It's as simple as that. No tickie no shirtie.
    I'm with  Jeralyn at this point, the countermeasure is the most important thing. They need to cut through the corporate structure in the industry and get a line directly to the engineers. Announcing a criminal investigation is political and does no good. It's not going to help these people help.

    Where is the BP expertise? (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by KeysDan on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 10:01:35 PM EST
    Both leading up to the blow-out, the handling of the blowout, Plans A through Z, all epic fail, postponing the only real solution, the drilling of the second relief well (which President Obama said the administration made them do against their wishes--how is that for expertise), the confusion in the information provided, their reluctance to make videos of the sea available until made to do so,  the use of toxic Corexit 9500 dispersant at the site of the well head and told not to do so by the EPA--they just said no),  the incompetent use of oil booms, the CEO wanting his life back, as do the 11 killed, claiming that respiratory problems from the toxic materials are probably food poisoning, trying to get waivers from responders, taking clothing from those stricken for legal purposes.  BP sees this, at least initially and as long as they can, as a pr problem.   As the politicians running on change and hope often say, we can do better.  And, I agree.

    Sigh (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 11:26:49 PM EST
    Two relief wells are being drilled as we speak, and they were started almost immediately after the blow-out.

    BP, with extensive consultation from the gummint, other oil companies, and various non-aligned experts, has been methodically working through various ways of trying to stop or at least reduce the gusher.  As each tactic is tried, the materials are being lined up behind it to try the next option.  As far as I can tell, they're trying things in the order primarily of safety, plus probability of working.  And then there's that little matter of having the equipment and materials, some of which are having to be custom-constructed for this situation, put together.

    They are currently a third to a half of the way through cutting off the riser (drill pipe) below the bend that's causing the gusher.

    BP is legally, financially and morally responsible for the shortcutting and negligence that caused this to happen to begin with, but as far as I or anybody who's closely watching it can see, they're doing exactly what they should be doing in trying to stop it, given the still considerable number of  unknowns about what set the forces in motion that caused the blow-out to begin with.


    The first relief well was started May 2, (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by KeysDan on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 10:12:40 AM EST
    and the second (which President Obama said the administration made them drill) was started on May 16, and suspended on May 26 for four or five days to facilitate one of the long-shot Plan B's.  The relief wells will not be ready for their horizontal drilling until about three months from the date started. The blowout occurred on April 20, which, to me, does not fit the "almost immediately" emergency response nor does it engender an unassailable grasp of expertise.   Particularly, in light of the history of the Ixtoc 1 Gulf of Mexico spill in June 1979, when, after nine months of various engineering efforts, two relief wells were required to reduce the pressure sufficiently to allow response personnel to cap it. And, this blow was in 160 feet of water.  I admire, but do not share,  your confidence in BP-- despite your acknowledgement of their shortcutting and negligence. Moreover, the steps BP has taken in capping the blow (not to mention the spill response) are not accepted by experts with unanimity.

    Indeed, you're right (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 11:45:43 PM EST
    But I would point out two things.  First is that the Ixtoc thing was 30 years ago, and the technology for drilling relief wells has vastly advanced since then. Doesn't mean they're going to succeed, but Ixtoc is not a good point of comparison.

    Secondly, of course there's not unanimity.  That's kind of my point, or should have been.  Every move is a judgment call.  It may turn out in the end that some of those moves were incorrect judgment, but right down the line they've been reasonable calls once BP got really serious about it.

    This particular accident has never happened before.  Not only was there a blow-out in mile-deep water, but it's still not entirely clear what happened to cause it, and the gigantic rig fell down on top of the whole construction on the bottom and caused God only knows what distortions of pressure and compression.  So BP and everybody else are having to feel their way carefully along this to minimize the risk of making it catastrophically worse.

    It's a judgment call, for instance, whether it made sense to temporarily halt work on one of the two relief wells to facilitate the attempt to mitigate the immediate gusher.

    I don't particularly have confidence in BP, but they really aren't running the show by themselves anymore.  A great deal of the equipment and personnel doing this now are from other companies.  Those ROVs, for instance, aren't BP's, nor are the operators.  Etc.


    The "Ixtoc Thing", true, (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by KeysDan on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 09:58:42 AM EST
    is not the same, but it should be an important consideration in making judgment calls, after all it was the second worst oil spill, it took 10 months to cap it, requiring the second relief well. The technology for drilling deep wells has certainly improved, but the technology for capping a blown well is, as we are seeing all too clearly, has not.   Perhaps, new technology for drilling (if only that, certainly not in spill response which has not advanced to any substantial degree in the past thirty years) led them to believe that only one relief well was needed, but fortunately BP expertise and judgment was overruled (a third relief well should be drilled, in the view of many experts)  And, several of the engineering steps taken in the Ixtoc 1 blow were similar to those attempted without success by BP.  As much as many would like to believe that BP is a "responsible spiller" and acting in the nation's best interests, their record, in my view, merits skepticism about as deep as their drilling capabilities.  As you correctly state, much is yet to be learned about the disaster (if we ever get the whole truth), and those who climb out on that BP limb are likely to be sawed off.  But, there will be no joy in any 'I told you so" comments.  The purpose of the skepticism, at this point, is to reduce conflicts of interest and secure independent judgments, and that includes agencies like the Coast Guard and NOAA.  And, with relief wells the only realistic approach to killing the well, we do not need BP in the driver's seat--this critical remaining step needs Uncle Sam at the controls of a consortium.

    Not talking about (5.00 / 2) (#46)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 11:10:46 AM EST
    anything other than relief wells here.  Agree with you entirely that dealing with blown wells, particularly this far down, is hardly at a confidence-inspiring point.

    Personally, I think it would be utter folly to try to boot BP out of it at this point, switching horses in mid-stream, etc., particularly in favor of a consortium.  They've got a de facto consortium working on the difficult part of the well itself, which is the attempt to at least reduce the flow from the busted BOP while the relief well work goes on.  There's no reason to think BP (or whoever they contract with to do the work) is any less competent at doing emergency relief wells than anybody else out there, so I don't see the need.

    Whether BP should ever be given permission to drill another well anywhere in U.S. territory is another matter.  I would be vehemently in favor of imposing a total ban on their operations in this country.


    links? (none / 0) (#37)
    by ZtoA on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 12:20:54 AM EST
    the technology for drilling relief wells has vastly advanced since then

    Any links about the VAST advancement?


    OK, if you want to (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 12:41:22 AM EST
    believe that imaging and directional control and etc. technology hasn't changed one whit since 1979, you're entirely welcome to live in your own world.  It will be a bit confusing for you, though.

    of relief wells actually working, even under less extreme circumstances, in more recent times?

    Some of us here, have been reading The Oil Drum (TOD) over the course of this blowout.

    If I recall correctly, TOD editors said BP needs to drill a minimum of 3 relief wells simultaneously since the probability of a relief well working is 50-75%.

    I read that a couple of days ago but didn't bookmark it -- so no link, and I wouldn't blame you for questioning it. If you have the time and patience to sort through the TOD editorials and the comment threads -- you're likely to find it in there somewhere.


    BTW, there is no basis for insulting ZtoA. (none / 0) (#42)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 01:59:01 AM EST
    She (?) has been remarkably diligent in researching this subject and getting a grip on it.

    I would suggest the (none / 0) (#45)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 11:01:29 AM EST
    use of all caps was clearly intended as sarcasm, thus my irritated response.

    Fair 'nuf. (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 10:06:34 PM EST
    I can't grade their paper (none / 0) (#22)
    by Rojas on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 11:21:35 PM EST
    Way beyond my expertise. But I handle these situations on a much, much smaller scale everyday. I know for example that the DOD can and will take over your operations on defense matters. I have seen this happen on a quality spill that effected the Hummer. The threat alone was enough to put the fear of god in this particular supplier who had a bureaucracy at least as large as BP.

    The reality is that the engineers will be the ones to solve this. The question is one of resources and expertise. At this point I think the real question is are the engineers being granted the resources internally and the resources to bring outside expertise in as required to solve this. I don't think the announcement of a criminal probe will aid in that matter.

    As for BP, I was pushing for their prosecution years ago. Not just here on TL, but arguing this position with friends who do work in that industry. I believe there were two possible outcomes of letting a BP as we know them play in this field. One stands before us and the other was to drag the rest of the industry down to their level.


    This is the point (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by ZtoA on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 12:16:38 AM EST
    At this point I think the real question is are the engineers being granted the resources internally and the resources to bring outside expertise in as required to solve this. I don't think the announcement of a criminal probe will aid in that matter.

    First, yes, the direction of the engineers to work the problem is critical. For example, how many relief wells (and at what cost to whom?) are to be drilled? To actually stop this wild well how many relief wells are needed? BP wants one (needle in a haystack). Maybe two, three, four or more are needed. (and I say that because the submerged talk of nuking the well is something I really do not agree with -after some research- but know that relief wells' are odds are not with us.)

    Second, a criminal probe will affect administrators who limit engineers with a financial bottom line. It will ask questions that deal with financial profiteering overriding engineering concerns. This will not be an investigation of engineers, but of BP administrators.


    Isn't part of fixing the problem (5.00 / 5) (#4)
    by nycstray on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 08:38:18 PM EST
    going at it from all angles? yeah, we can clean it up (maybe) and put in new regs (maybe) etc, but shouldn't an investigation be part and parcel, especially considering BP's actions and words throughout this disaster?
    Since the Government doesn't have the ability and expertise to remedy the crisis on its own, it doesn't seem like a good time to be alienating those who might be able to provide a solution by threatening prosecution. Can't that wait?

    Frankly, BP has been a total f'ing jerk, imo. Doing everything they can to downplay the impact and actuality of the situation. I can't believe they have the only people that can stop this problem. I mean really, no plumes? food poisoning? etc?! Let's not even go to the amount of oil that is gushing into the gulf . . .

    While longtime readers here know me (5.00 / 7) (#5)
    by scribe on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 08:41:17 PM EST
    for being resolutely pro-defendant, this case is the one exception which proves the rule (about me):  I am all in favor of the government addressing BP with all the savagery the criminal law possesses.  Pour encourager les autres ought to be applied equally to rich white corporate suits as well as to poor brown schlubs.

    And, for those who may have forgotten, that would include the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, which makes every crime were people or property might be harmed into a predicate for a terrorism conviction.  

    BP is a terrorist organization.  

    It is that simple.  They have engaged in serial crimes against people and property for their own profit and left a wake of dead, terrorized, demoralized and economically crippled people and communities.

    We need to recall that DoJ saw nothing wrong and everything good, true and right in spending extravagant amounts of time hunting down and prosecuting - as terrorists - some environmentalists who went over the line into burning down unoccupied, uncompleted luxury houses ensconsced in wild areas, a property crime whose value is far, far less than even the most BP friendly estimate of even a corner of the damages BP's caused.  

    We need to recall that DoJ prosecuted and convicted as terrorists some New Jersey animal rights activists who - horribly - sent blast faxes and tied up the phone lines and freed some lab animals.  

    We need to recall that DoJ and the FBI declared environmental terrorism one of their tippy-top priorities for domestic terrorism to be combatted.

    And the flacks, hangers on and various remoras making a living off smoothing the way for BP to continue its criminality (recidivists, they had a record prior to this disaster) need to get the same treatment Lynne Stewart did:  prosecution for material support.

    Now, if anyone is to ever take seriously that the USG is interested in fighting terrorism, then they have to go after BP with these tools.  Otherwise, the government will prove the point - that many here have been making for a long time - that the war on terror is really a war on the brown, poor, downtrodden and that those who are white, rich and connected need not worry.

    So, this is where the character of the United States will be made, or broken, for the next generation.  

    If past is prelude, I should not spend my effort holding my breath waiting for the USG to do the right thing.  

    I agree (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Rojas on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 09:25:17 PM EST
    And I believe we should start with those who have provided material support for these terrorist. If we don't do that, nothing will change.

    I was just thinking along these lines today, (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by allimom99 on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 11:33:09 PM EST
    but you've put it much more eloquently than I could.

    scribe, (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by cpinva on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 05:59:43 AM EST
    i've always appreciated your subtlety and light touch.

    Heh. (none / 0) (#28)
    by scribe on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 07:09:12 AM EST
    Socialist response to the Gulf oil crisis (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Andreas on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 08:54:36 PM EST

    The WSWS writes:

    Emergency measures are necessary to deal with this disaster. First, vast economic and social resources must be mobilized to limit the environmental disaster to the extent possible and provide jobs for all those affected in the region. BP has hired only a tiny fraction of those able to work, as the company is concerned above all with its bottom line.

    A criminal investigation into the activities of BP, Transocean, Halliburton and other companies must be launched. Top executives should be arrested and held accountable for this disaster.

    An international committee of scientists and other experts must be convened, completely independent of the corporations and the government, to determine the extent of the catastrophe and the necessary measures that must be taken. No confidence can be placed in the Obama administration or any section of the political establishment to do anything but continue to cover for BP and the oil industry.

    As the days and weeks pass, the impact of the disaster will escalate, as the unanticipated consequences come to light. One thing is certain: the ultimate cost of this disaster will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The resources for this must come from the oil companies themselves. BP and other energy companies must be immediately nationalized and placed under democratic control.

    The socialist response to the Gulf oil crisism,
    1 June 2010,
    Joe Kishore and Patrick Martin

    gads (5.00 / 5) (#9)
    by ZtoA on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 09:07:38 PM EST
    Since the Government doesn't have the ability and expertise to remedy the crisis on its own, it doesn't seem like a good time to be alienating those who might be able to provide a solution by threatening prosecution. Can't that wait?

    Yes, BP is the one and only oil company on the face of the globe and their bottom line is foreign citizens' welfare. They have complete control of every oil rig engineer - every geological engineer - etc etc. We need to just sit back and hope that BP will save us and we should be really nice to BP in the meantime. We should ignore the EPA popping off since BP probably knows what is best. Big Papa. If the company goes bankrupt over this no biggie - they'll get a bunch of money and then go to some "other" oil company. They're rich men with connections - why make them suffer?

    The sad thing is that the real damage is already set in motion. Its going to be horribly painful to watch and experience this playing out. And as a defense site I understand not wanting to control things via prosecution. But controlling things is yesterday. Its just so sad.

    I don't accept the idea that the government (5.00 / 6) (#11)
    by Anne on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 09:22:34 PM EST
    doesn't have the ability and expertise to remedy the crisis on its own, nor will I accept the idea that somehow we need to walk on eggshells around those at the companies involved who might be able to work on a solution.  BP is not the only oil company, and neither DeepWater nor TransOcean nor Halliburton are the only companies with experts that could assist the government in fixing this mess.

    If those at the highest levels of government were smart, they would not have hung back for so long, more or less passively allowing BP to play this mess out; shoot, if the media can find experts why can't the government?  This may not be the same kind of disaster as Katrina, but has the government really not learned strategic and management lessons that could be translated to this situation?

    Cynic that I am, I see the DoJ and Obama as using threat of civil and criminal accountability as the administration's latest PR tool, as an optic designed to improve image, even if it doesn't actually do anything to mitigate or resolve what is happening.  A photo op here, a presser that embarrassingly showcased a grinning Obama admitting he did not know the circumstances of the departure of the MMS head.  An admission that he thought the people of Louisiana were being unfair in their criticism.  These are the kinds of things that give people the impression that the government cannot find its a$$ with both hands, when, in fact, what it is is failure of leadership and a distressing inability to seize this opportunity to show the government at its best.

    There just is no excuse for acting as if we have to remain beholden to yet another institution that has delivered us a huge and expensive mess.

    So true (1.00 / 1) (#17)
    by klassicheart on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 10:31:14 PM EST
    This is outrageous and demonstrates that Obama is not a natural leader...just someone who reads teleprompters well...everything is about him and his image.  There is nothing about his administration that is admirable, courageous, innovative or principled....Bobby Jindal looks, surprisingly, like the real leader here...and I disagree with most of his positions...yet he is the one demonstrating leadership.  A crisis demonstrates who the real leader is and who is the poseur.  The disaster is the failure of leadership...on any number of issues...

    that came from the NYTimes article I linked to (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 10:35:33 PM EST
    For Mr. Obama, part of the problem has been that the solution to the BP disaster is at its heart an engineering problem, and one the government has already acknowledged it is in no position to fix on its own.

    Just to make clear that wasn't commentary by me, but part of the NY Times' reporting.


    McClatchy Newspaper outshines the NYTimes (none / 0) (#32)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 01:58:27 PM EST
    on coverage of the BP Gulf spill. It reminds me, somewhat, of the difference between how McClatchy and the NYTimes reported on WMD and the lead-up to the Iraq war.

    TruthOut and CommonDreams have both been superlative in the depth, and breadth, of their BP coverage. Their coverage also includes linkage to numerous MSM stories on the subject.


    In the words of none other than Chris Matthews (none / 0) (#33)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 07:16:18 PM EST
    this a.m. on Morning Joe, the Prez doesn't get it, i.e., does not understand the level of anger at what is happening in the Gulf, and, I dare say, the Admin's poor response to the crisis.  

    BP unnecessary (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by waldenpond on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 10:30:12 PM EST
    Industry specialists, scientific experts etc have been at BP headquarters for weeks.  The people and assets are present... rather than 'fire' BP, it would be easiest if the govt seized BP, that way they can have continuity.   The clean-up is all contracted out.. just continue the contracts.  I'm not sure how many of the rovs and other equipment is BPs or outsourced.  BP is easily eliminated.

    Parallel proceedings (none / 0) (#6)
    by christinep on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 08:44:25 PM EST
    The AG's earlier statements indicate that the government is moving on dual fronts--civil and criminal. Under the circumstances, that was to be expected. I'm guessing the "early" announcement sends a message to a lot of audiences. For example: Legitimate pressure from the environmental groups' perspective probably pushed forward the announcement of what had become fairly obvious <the thorough investigation into all aspects of environmental law.> While typically an announcement about intentions in environmental enforcement normally follows clean-up processes, there is every reason in a situation such as this one to state the open-secret of investigative intentions.

    A bit more (none / 0) (#8)
    by christinep on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 09:04:13 PM EST
    An addition: As I recall, a major ramification of environmental felony conviction is a procedure called "listing." Companies subject to listing are precluded from contracts with all parts of the U.S. government. Simply speculating...should some start projecting about fines potential, etc. A particularly stinging effect may well be "listing" in the event that a case would be developed and proceed with favorable results for the government.

    The "link" function isn't working for me (none / 0) (#13)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 09:28:05 PM EST
    Anybody else having that problem?

    the link function where? (none / 0) (#18)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 10:32:46 PM EST
    at the top of the comment box? It is working for me. Or are you talking about another one?

    The link above the comment box (none / 0) (#31)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 01:38:44 PM EST
    wasn't working for me last night and this morning -- but it works now. Weird.

    This is Nuts (none / 0) (#20)
    by SomewhatChunky on Tue Jun 01, 2010 at 11:00:42 PM EST
    If I was an engineer at BP, Exxon or anywhere else that had some knowledge and ability to help solve this crisis I wouldn't help at this point.  I'd run away as fast as I could.

    Criminal prosecution?  Witch hunt is more like it.   I'm sure any "thorough" investigation will uncover plenty of emails and memos detailing how BP could have done this or could have done that.  There will be plenty expressing concern over whether doing it this way or that way is safe or correct.    Engineers are not lawyers and usually do not "edit" their thoughts with the understanding that they will be later picked apart by a team of political hacks looking for scalps.  Any large complex undertaking is full of thousands of those type of discussions.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

    I'm not a lawyer but I though any good defense lawyer tells their client to shut up and not volunteer anything when the target or possible future target of a government investigation.  It's certainly going make any exchange of ideas, data and thoughts far worse than it already is.

    Just the atmosphere we want when trying to solve a very difficult technical problem.

    not true (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by CST on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 09:00:45 AM EST
    engineers are very aware that they are legally responsible when things go wrong.  This happens all the time.  There are engineers who make careers out of being expert witnesses.  This is why we have to get a professional engineering liscence and stamp every plan that goes out.  That stamp on a plan means you are legally liable for anything on that plan.  I assure you every professional engineer is highly aware of that fact.

    Things go wrong all the time in engineering and when that happens people sue.  We may not be lawyers, but we are well aware of our legal and professional responsibility.  This is not a witch hunt, it's standard operating procedure.


    last i checked, (none / 0) (#27)
    by cpinva on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 06:10:51 AM EST
    the government isn't in the petroleum business. it doesn't have either the equipment or training to handle this kind of situation, the oil companies themselves are supposed to.

    a total abrogation of regulatory oversight responsibilities, for the past decade, hasn't helped: why expend funds on plans and equipment, if no one is looking over your shoulder? that can go to dividends, and so it has.

    one thing i was curious about: according to some reportage that i've read, BP had a permit to drill to 15,000 feet. however, they actually drilled to 22,000 feet (i think), roughly 7,000 feet deeper than they should have. i have to wonder if this didn't maybe contribute to the situation, given the much higher pressures at the lower depths?

    on that same track, would this apparent violation of their permit constitute a potential criminal or civil violation, if it was determined to be a predicate cause of the accident?

    Perhaps some administrative waiver (none / 0) (#34)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 07:22:23 PM EST
    of statutory requirements is the basis for the deeper drilling.

    BP's exceeded it's 18k ft drill permit to 25k ft. (none / 0) (#35)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 08:09:59 PM EST
    See Crooks and Liars story, BP Deepwater Horizon Well Permitted for 18,000 ft. but Drilling as Deep as 25,000 ft.
    Larry King talked to Robert Kennedy Jr. who is representing the fishermen in Louisiana in a class action law suit against BP [filed on April 30/10]. Besides the problems with Halliburton and their faulty work with the cementing process and the lack of and the lack of an acoustic switch, Kennedy said they were also violating their permit by drilling too deeply. Although they were only permitted to drill down 18,000 ft., Kennedy said they now have evidence that they were drilling as deeply as 25,000 ft.

    Couldn't Disagree More (none / 0) (#39)
    by SomewhatChunky on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 01:26:10 AM EST
    It sounds good - that's how lawyers think.  

    But when people are afraid, that's not how they think.  It's not at all how the real world works - especially when blame must be found.  Very few engineers actually testify in court.  It's one thing to put your stamp[ on a completed project on which you have expertise and are confident in.  It's another to risk your neck on trying things that have never been done.

    See here for a more detailed take on things -- it even quotes a paper written by Hilary Clinton and Obama:

    Opps (none / 0) (#40)
    by SomewhatChunky on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 01:29:54 AM EST
    Not only did I miss my thread, but left out the link.  See below.



    FWIW (none / 0) (#43)
    by CST on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 08:55:57 AM EST
    I'm not a lawyer, I'm an engineer (in training).

    They are not doing criminal investigations on the remediation efforts being attempted now.  They will be looking into how this all went wrong in the first place.  From the article you linked:

    "criminal investigation into the behavior of BP in the run-up to the drilling platform explosion"

    emphasis mine.

    That's a very key distinction.  That is the area where there should have been "expertise" involved.  Obviously at this point it's a different situation.  And frankly, I doubt it is the same engineers who are working on fixing the problem as those who caused it.  The government is calling the shots now, in an emergency situation you aren't going to have the same kind of process.

    Very few engineers testify, but they are well aware of their legal liability when things go wrong.  That doesn't necessarily mean someone is going to prison, if I had to guess, there will be a financial settlement.  That doesn't mean they shouldn't look into it.

    Here in Boston, we had a situation where a two-ton ceiling tile fell from the roof of the big dig and killed a woman.  They didn't wait until the ceiling was repaired to start a criminal investigation.  That would have taken years.