BP Managers Said to Face U.S. Manslaughter Charges Review
By Justin Blum and Alison Fitzgerald, Bloomberg News
Mar 29, 2011 6:03 AM ET
Halliburton recommended BP use 21 centralizers that help ensure cement is evenly distributed in the well and seals it. BP had only six centralizers on Deepwater Horizon, according to internal e-mails released by investigators. BP officials decided to go ahead rather than wait for the additional 15.
They also decided to skip a test that would determine if the cement was stable, according to testimony at Coast Guard hearings. Then, on April 20, BP and Transocean managers on the rig misread the results of another test to determine whether the well’s cement seal was strong enough to hold the oil and natural gas beneath the ocean floor, according to the president’s commission.
In the end, the companies went ahead and removed the drilling mud from the well, which took 2,600 pounds of weight from atop the oil and gas reservoir. Within hours, natural gas reached the Deepwater Horizon and touched off the catastrophic explosion.
Authorities are examining actions by BP managers who worked both on the rig and onshore to determine whether they should be charged in connection with the workers’ deaths, according to the people. Prosecutors have been looking at charges of involuntary manslaughter or seaman’s manslaughter, which carries a more serious penalty of up to 10 years.
Charging individuals would be significant to environmental- safety cases because it might change behavior, said Jane Barrett, a law professor at the University of Maryland.
“They typically don’t prosecute employees of large corporations,” said Barrett, who spent 20 years prosecuting environmental crimes at the federal and state levels. “You’ve got to prosecute the individuals in order to maximize, and not lose, the deterrent effect.”