BP partners ‘manipulating’ oil spill evidence, chemical board says

By Daniel Tencer
Thursday, December 23, 2010 22:36 EDT
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The federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents has accused two BP partners of “hands-on manipulation” of evidence in the Gulf oil spill.

The US Chemical Safety Board has asked for a halt to testing of the blowout preventer involved in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, saying that employees of Cameron International and Transocean have been permitted “hands-on manipulation” of the device.

MSNBC.com reports

In a letter to the federal agency overseeing the investigation, Safety Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso wrote that workers for Cameron International, which made the blowout preventer, and rig owner Transocean were allowed “hands-on manipulation” during federal tests to determine why the massive device failed.

“That approach diminishes the credibility of the entire process and jeopardizes the public’s trust in the examination results,” he added. “Given the well-publicized history of improper relationships between the former Minerals Management Service and members of the oil industry, one would have expected that extraordinary care would be taken to conduct the BOP testing above reproach.”

The board noted that the companies at times had closer access to the equipment than the safety board itself.

According to the Associated Press, the chemical board says it has been shut out of access to tests that included multiple representatives from Cameron and Transocean.

Transocean has reportedly described the chemical board’s accusations as “totally unfounded.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency overseeing the investigation, appears to be downplaying the board’s allegations. AP reports:

An employee of Transocean — the owner of the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf — has been removed as a consultant for the Norwegian firm conducting the testing, but the ocean energy bureau says that otherwise the companies have provided their expertise appropriately.

The chemical board is demanding that the ocean energy bureau fire the Norwegian company contracted to do the testing, remove Cameron and Transocean employees from the tests, and give the board access to all photos and videos of the tests, Bloomberg reports.

The ocean energy bureau was known until recently as the Minerals Management Service. It was renamed after news reports indicated the agency had been delinquent in enforcing safety standards for offshore drilling. Raw Story reported in May:

Regulators overseeing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico reportedly allowed oil company officials to fill in their own inspection reports. According to the internal probe being released this week, oil officials sketched out their answers in pencil and turned them over to federal oversight officials, who then traced their answers in pen.

And as if that wasn’t enough, a Louisiana inspector from the Minerals Management Service purportedly admitted to investigators that he’d used crystal methamphetamine, and may have been high on the illegal stimulant during a drilling inspection.

Eleven oil rig workers were killed when BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20 of this year, sending an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

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