GULF SPILL:

Latest government report places blame more squarely on BP's shoulders

The federal task force investigating last year's deadly rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico today released its highly anticipated report, which blames much of the disaster on poor management decisions by BP PLC.

The Coast Guard and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement report, which was originally due earlier this year, says the immediate cause of the blowout that killed 11 rig workers and sparked the nation's worst oil spill was the failure of a cement seal set the day before the explosion.

But the disaster as a whole was "the result of poor risk management, last-minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well-control response and insufficient emergency bridge response training by companies and individuals responsible for drilling at the Macondo well and for the operation of the Deepwater Horizon," the report says.

The findings of today's report -- the final volume of a two-part series prepared by the joint investigation team -- do not stray far from those of other investigations into the disaster that have been released over the past year. But the new report places the blame more squarely on BP's shoulders.

"As a prudent operator, BP should have complete control of operations and issues surrounding operations on its lease," the report says. "BP's failure to have full supervision and accountability over the activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon was a contributing cause of the Macondo blowout."

But BP's contractors, Halliburton Co. and Transocean Ltd., are not completely left off the hook in the report either.

"While it is not possible to discern which precise combination of these decisions and actions set the blowout in motion, it is clear that increased vigilance and awareness by BP, Transocean and Halliburton personnel at critical junctures during operations at the Macondo well would have reduced the likelihood of the blowout occurring," the report says.

In a response to the report, BP attempted to keep the focus on all the companies involved in the disaster.

"BP agrees with the report's core conclusion -- consistent with every other official investigation -- that the Deepwater Horizon accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple parties, including Transocean and Halliburton," Tom Mueller, a spokesman for the company, said in an email. "From the outset, BP acknowledged its role in the accident and has taken concrete steps to further enhance safety and risk management throughout its global operations, including the implementation of new voluntary standards and practices in the Gulf of Mexico that exceed current regulatory requirements and strengthen the oversight of contractors. We continue to encourage other parties to acknowledge their roles in the accident and make changes to help prevent similar accidents in the future."

The 212-page report also makes a series of 40 recommended regulatory changes to improve the safety of offshore drilling operations. The recommendations cover well design, well integrity testing, kick detection and response, rig configuration, blowout preventers and remotely operated vehicles.

BOEMRE over the past year has been completely overhauled, reorganizing itself and reforming drilling safety requirements. The agency today said it will release an additional safety rule in the coming weeks that will incorporate additional safety requirements that address the findings of the report.

The report could also find some clout on Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers in the House have delayed any legislative response to the disaster until they have seen it.

House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said today that the committee would hold a hearing on the report's findings next week.

"This is another significant report on the disaster, and I'm hopeful it will give us a clearer picture about what happened so Congress, industry and the administration can move forward responsibly and appropriately," Hastings said in a statement. "I'm confident that with a far more complete reporting of the facts, we will be able to take a thoughtful approach to real reforms to ensure continued safe American energy production."

Click here to read the report.

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