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Shocking allegations against BP

At least one worker who was on the oil rig at the time of the explosion on April 20, and who handled company records for BP, said the rig had been drilling deeper than 22,000 feet, even though the company’s federal permit allowed it to go only 18,000 to 20,000 feet deep, the lawyers said.

That’s from a front-page story in the NY Times Tuesday with the mild headline, “On Defensive, BP Readies Dome to Contain Spill.”

The paper of record chose to publish this serious allegation of permit violation, but oddly didn’t lead with them. And while reporting “BP strongly denied the claim that it was drilling deeper than was allowed,” the paper then drops this bombshell:

Another worker familiar with the rig told the lawyers that the company had chosen not to install a deep-water valve that would have been placed about 200 feet under the sea floor. Much like blowout preventers, devices that are meant to seal leaks, this valve could have served as a cutoff of last resort in explosions, the lawyers said.

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“The company took their chances in not having the valve so they could save money,” said Mike Papantonio, one of the lawyers representing the shrimpers and fishermen.

Mr. Gowers [a BP spokesman] declined to comment on that claim except to say that the investigation was continuing and that it was too early to speculate.

That’s the first time I’ve seen reporting on this below-sea-floor valve option.

This isn’t the acoustic cut-off that the WSJ has been reporting on, which the company also didn’t kick in $500,000 for:

BP has a lot of explaining to do.

And maybe BP’s CEO — who previously was “Chief Executive of exploration and production” at the company — finally has the answer to his inane question: