A White House inquiry into the Gulf oil disaster has found “no instance” of BP putting cash before safety.The report’s findings, delivered yesterday, will be embarrassing for Mr Obama who held BP responsible for the disaster, savaging its then chief executive Tony Hayward. Mr Hayward has since stood down and been replaced by Bob Dudley. At the time critics claimed that Mr Obama was trying to shift the blame from American firms. The spill which pumped 206 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over five months was America’s worst environmental disaster. It was triggered by a blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig on 20th April this year which killed 11 workers. The oil spill commission’s chief counsel, Fred Bartlit, told the start of a two-day hearing: “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. 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.” In a seeming vindication of BP, which was widely condemned for the catastrophe, Mr Bartlit said the panel agreed with about 90 per cent of the findings of the company’s internal inquiry. This found flaws with American contractor Halliburton’s cement work and the maintenance performed by rig owner Transocean on critical pieces of equipment. Transocean has denied the criticisms and said BP’s Macondo well design was a key factor in the accident. Halliburton has also defended its cement work on the well, and blamed other actions for causing the explosion. However, last month Bartlit released a stinging report that said Halliburton used flawed cement in the well. In our view Mr Bartlit’s admission that “we do not say everything done was perfectly safe” is far from a vindication of BP, Halliburton or Transocean. We are sure that the victims’ families would like to know exactly which aspects of the rig’s operation were unsafe and we feel certain that their legal representatives will be urged to pursue the details of the events leading up to the disaster. The families are expecting the commission to answer the fundamental questions surrounding their loved ones’ deaths. It is too easy to arrive at the conclusion no one or no single group was to blame because there is no evidence of deliberate decison making which sacrificed rig safety for cost. The job of the commission is surely to thoroughly examine and investigate the failings of operating systems and safety procedures, or are the families supposed to shrug their shoulders and accept that because nobody meant to harm their loved ones then nobody should be held to account for their deaths. Just because nobody took premeditated action to cut corners on safety does not mean that Deepwater Horizon was a safe place to be on 20th April this year. The hearing continues.
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