This report was written by Jennifer Dlouhy of the Washington bureau. Follow her updates on the commission hearing all day today on FuelFix.com.
A “culture of complacency” permeates all three companies that were central in drilling and sealing BP’s doomed Macondo well, one of the leaders of the national commission investigating the Deepwater Horizon disaster said today.
Panel co-chairman William Reilly’s sharply worded comments — delivered at the start of a second day of hearings on the Gulf disaster — mark a change in tone for the commission, which yesterday said there was no evidence that BP deliberately made conscious decisions to save dollars by cutting corners.
But Reilly said, that doesn’t mean cost wasn’t a factor. Commission investigators did not ascribe motive and “didn’t rule out cost,” he said. “They just said they weren’t prepared to attribute mercenary motives to men who cannot speak for themselves because they are not alive,” Reilly said. “But the story they told is ghastly — one bad call after another.”
Reilly took aim at BP, rig owner Transocean and Halliburton, the cement contractor on the Macondo project.
“Each company is responsible for one or more egregiously bad decisions,” Reilly said. “BP, Halliburton and Transocean are major respected companies operating throughout the Gulf, and the evidence is that they are in need of top-to-bottom reform.”
The commission highlighted a series of possible problems in the hours and days before the explosion, including misinterpreted pressure tests, a risky procedure for sealing the well and missed warning signs that gas had breached it.
Bob Graham, the other commission co-chairman, said he was concerned about BP’s shifting plans for temporarily abandoning the well — with as many as three different plans adopted in the final week before the explosion. That, Graham said, “is illustrative of the lack of consistent planning for safety.”
“The problem here is that there was a culture that did not promote safety, and that culture failed,” Graham said. “Leaders did not take risks seriously enough (and) did not identify risks that proved to be fatal.”
During today’s hearing, the commission is set to hear from drilling experts and oil company executives, including Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum and Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil. Reilly handed the pair a compliment — and delivered another swipe at BP — when he said yesterday’s hearing focused on the practices of industry “laggards,” but today would allow the panel to “learn from the leaders . . . and look at companies which have learned from their own disasters and rose to become standard bearers.”