[QUOTE=Infomania;88894]2 workers shoulder blame for 2010 BP oil disaster | The Advertiser | theadvertiser.com
NEW ORLEANS — The manslaughter charges brought against two relatively low-ranking BP rig workers in the deadly Gulf of Mexico disaster may be as far as federal prosecutors are willing to go. Or maybe they intend to use the two men to work their way up the corporate ladder.
The Justice Department has said only that its criminal investigation is still going on. As a result, others are left guessing about prosecutors’ intentions.
“Either there simply isn’t evidence that anybody higher up was involved, or the department has concluded the only way it’s going to make its case against more senior corporate officers is if it charges and eventually obtains cooperation” from the two men, said David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor and former chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section.
A federal indictment unsealed last week charged BP rig supervisors Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, a Lafayette man, with botching a crucial safety test before the 2010 drilling-platform explosion that killed 11 workers and triggered the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
BP agreed last week to plead guilty to charges related to the workers’ deaths and pay a record $4.5 billion. But none of the company’s onshore engineers or executives was accused of wrongdoing in the indictment.
Shaun Clarke, one of Kaluza’s attorneys, said the narrow focus of his client’s indictment doesn’t jibe with the widely accepted conclusion that “multiple failures at multiple levels in multiple companies” led to the blowout.
“It would have taken a lot of courage after spending three years and tens of millions of dollars investigating to go back to the White House and say, ‘You know, Mr. President, we can’t really find a person to blame.’ Instead, they decided to scapegoat two people who were just out on the rig doing their jobs,” Clarke said.
Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke, who served on a presidential commission charged with investigating the explosion and subsequent spill, said the disaster resulted from “systemic failures” that raised concerns about the entire drilling industry’s safety culture.
As well site leaders, Kaluza and Vidrine were the highest-ranking BP supervisors on the rig, each having four decades of experience in the oil patch.
Vidrine, 65, was on duty at the time of the April 20, 2010, explosion. Kaluza, 62, was filling in for another well site leader and had been on the rig only a few days before the blowout. He was in bed at the time of the blast.
The case against Kaluza and Vidrine centers on their roles in supervising “negative testing,” which is designed to assess whether a cement barrier is effectively preventing oil or gas from flowing up the well. The indictment says they had “multiple indications” from the negative testing that the well wasn’t secure. Yet they allegedly failed to alert onshore engineers about the problems during the testing, accepted a “nonsensical explanation” for abnormal pressure readings and eventually decided to stop investigating.[/QUOTE]
Root cause seduction at its worst, and IMHO guaranteed to make things worse. For the record, here is the text of the two Federal statutes under which these poor guys are being charged:
18 USC § 1112 - Manslaughter
(a) Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of two kinds:
Voluntary—Upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
Involuntary—In the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act which might produce death.
(b) Within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,
Whoever is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both;
Whoever is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.
18 USC § 1115 - Misconduct or neglect of ship officers
Every captain, engineer, pilot, or other person employed on any steamboat or vessel, by whose misconduct, negligence, or inattention to his duties on such vessel the life of any person is destroyed, and every owner, charterer, inspector, or other public officer, through whose fraud, neglect, connivance, misconduct, or violation of law the life of any person is destroyed, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
When the owner or charterer of any steamboat or vessel is a corporation, any executive officer of such corporation, for the time being actually charged with the control and management of the operation, equipment, or navigation of such steamboat or vessel, who has knowingly and willfully caused or allowed such fraud, neglect, connivance, misconduct, or violation of law, by which the life of any person is destroyed, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
The second one, known as “Seaman’s Manslaughter,” goes back to the 1850s. It evidently comes in because under maritime law (Jones Act, where are you when we need you?) a DP rig can be considered to be a vessel “under way but not making way.” Transocean and the Marshall Islands (flag state) had a policy that a DP rig that was latched up was the equivalent of an anchored one and therefore under control of the OIM and not the Master. The Coast Guard disagreed and both TO and MI attorneys were very active when the topic of command came up in the JIT hearings. This whole issue is currently grinding its way through the regulatory process. The Coast Guard, or at least elements within it, would clearly prefer that a DP rig be under the command of a Master with an OIM endorsement rather than having to sort out things between two (three, if you count the Company man) people in an incipient emergency. Nineteen minutes were wasted on the DWH between the time the drill crew first started being concerned about pressure anomalies and the explosion.