In stark contrast to the views expressed on Monday by Fred Bartlit, the panel’s chief investigator, new attacks were launched yesterday against BP and the other leading companies implicated in the April oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.Bill Reilly, a co-chairman of the presidential commission investigating the accident said: “They all suffered from a ‘culture of complacency’ about safety. There was not a culture of safety on that rig. BP, Halliburton and Transocean are in need of top-to-bottom reform.” The remarks from the panel’s chief investigator, Fred Bartlit, on Monday suggesting that greed had not been a factor in the tragedy and that BP, contrary to the assertions of some Democratic members of Congress, had not cut corners to save money, sparked wonderment and anger in some quarters yesterday. Most controversial were Mr Bartlit’s comments repudiating the allegations of cost-cutting. “To date, we have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favour dollars over safety,” he told the hearing. “Absolutely absurd,” declared Daniel Becnel, a lawyer suing BP and others over the spill, upon hearing of Mr Bartlit’s assessment. “The reason is it so absurd is because BP is known to paste over safety, especially if it involved money and downtime. They couldn’t afford any more downtime on that rig.” The presidential commission will present its final report to the White House in January. It is seeking subpoena powers to oblige some key figures to testify, but some Republicans are objecting. The main focus of its probe is the apparently faulty cementing process that was the responsibility primarily of Halliburton and the failure of engineers properly to heed warning signs from a key pressure test that was conducted just prior to the explosion. The more critical comments from Mr Reilly, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, yesterday were echoed by another co-chairman of the panel, Bob Graham, an ex-US Senator from Florida. “There were a series of almost incredible failures in the days and hours leading up to the disaster,” he told the hearing. From the comments now emerging from the presidential commission, it seems that the panel is divided on the key issue of cost v safety. Mr Bartlit’s views have been seriously undermined by the contrasting opinons of Mr. Reilly and Mr. Graham, his co-chairmen, which at least auger well for a full and detailed review of each company’s approach to safety management procedures and the actions of all three in the days leading up to the disaster.
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