6 Jan 2011

Gulf oil leak report: cost-cutting put before safety

9:58 pm on 6 January 2011

A commission set up by the White House to investigate the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has found that BP and its partners made a series of cost-cutting decisions that ultimately contributed to the disaster.

An explosion on 20 April last year on the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and caused one of the worst oil spills in history. The leak was not capped until 15 July.

In its final report on Wednesday on the causes of the leak, the commission said BP and its collaborators on the well lacked a system to ensure their actions were safe, Reuters reports.

"Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo (well) blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money)," the report said.

The commission will issue its full review of the spill and its aftermath next week, but the 48-page report warns the failures were systemic and are likely to recur without industry and government reform.

The report outlines major missteps by BP; Halliburton, which oversaw cementing for the well; and by Transocean, the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The findings contradict its initial report in November last year, which found no evidence that project workers cut corners to save money.

The commission also said federal government regulators lacked the authority, resources and expertise to prevent safety lapses.

Since the disaster, the Obama administration has restructured the federal offshore drilling regulatory agency and implemented a number of new regulations aimed at strengthening governmental oversight.

BP 'working with regulators'

BP said in a statement that the report, like its own investigation, had found the accident was the result of multiple causes, involving multiple companies, the BBC reports.

However, it said the company was working with regulators to ensure lessons learned from the spill "lead to improvements in operations and contractor services in deepwater drilling".

Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, said that "the procedures being conducted in the final hours were crafted and directed by BP engineers and approved in advance by federal regulators".

Victims want compensation

For many affected by the spill, the battle to get compensation is now a priority.

Businesses, fishermen and entire states lost out as a direct result of what President Barack Obama called America's worst environmental disaster and many are still struggling with its after-effects, the BBC reports.

Tourists and locals alike are still suspicious about the food caught in the Gulf of Mexico and hotels and restaurants across three states continue to suffer.