First Criminal Charge in BP Oil Disaster Underwhelms

Guest Blog | May 11, 2012 | Energy Policy, Offshore Drilling
Deepwater Horizon Fire
Photo: Gerald Herbert, AP

Many of the impacts from the BP oil disaster will go unseen. Typically, this is in reference to the hidden ecological impacts, deep underwater, from spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the ocean. However, it has now come to light that a BP engineer has been charged with intentionally destroying records relating to the Macondo well blowout. Now it seems that not only will ecological impacts go unseen, evidence in a criminal case may also be plunged into the abyss.

As the article states, Kurt Mix heard that BP may have to release its internal estimate of how much oil was actually lost. For whatever reason, he then decided to delete about 300 text messages about oil flow estimates. Analysts say that the company could be criminally liable for up to $17.6 billion – but that figure depends on the estimate of how much oil actually spilled. If more was spilled, the fine could be much higher.

Dead Dolphin
One of the thousands of dolphins whose death is linked to the oil spill. Photo: Laurel Lockamy

Some of the texts, or at least the context of the texts, have been restored. While BP was initially telling the public that the estimated flow rate was around 1,000 barrels per day, their own internal numbers generated by Mix were actually around 64,000 barrels – 138,000 barrels per day.  Perhaps even more tragic than the loss of evidence, it appears Mix may have been warning BP that their hokey efforts to stop the flow (remember the “top-hat”, “top-kill”, etc?) would fail because the flow rate was too high.

BP lied to the public about the extent of the oil gushing into the Gulf, and they expect to pay a pittance for their criminal actions. They’ve also earned billions of dollars in profits since the oil spill – and raked in millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies. Meanwhile, Congress has done nothing and even ignored advice to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Eleven men died, followed by the worst environmental disaster this country has ever seen and the best our justice system can do is bust a guy for deleting some text messages?

Now it appears that offshore oil drilling may soon come to the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. This is unacceptable. Contact your elected officials.



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