Beginning Monday, forensic engineers will put the blowout preventer retrieved from the Deepwater Horizon through a battery of tests designed to reveal why it failed to stop gushing oil and gas at BP’s Macondo well this year.
A last-minute compromise among federal agencies will ensure that the Chemical Safety Board has its own representative in the testing facility, along with five other experts from BP, rig owner Transocean, blowout preventer manufacturer Cameron International, the Justice Department and the plaintiffs in a multi-district class action lawsuit tied to the oil spill.
The final deal puts an end to weeks of fighting between the CSB and the joint investigation team from the Coast Guard and the Interior Department over access to the testing — though neither side was celebrating Saturday.
CSB’s managing director, said the board would sign the testing agreement drafted by the joint investigative team and would be present when testing gets under way despite “significant” and unresolved concerns about access.
Horowitz said major remaining issues “include the lack of independent photography” during the testing and “excessive restrictions on personnel in the testing area.” Additionally, Horowitz said, there is no “appropriate” process for resolving disputes among federal agencies involved in the testing.
But, in a concession by the joint investigation team, the final deal secured CSB’s space at the testing facility and allowed the board to put an investigator or other expert of its own choosing in the seat when the examination is under way.
Additionally, Horowitz said, “we successfully negotiated the removal of an unprecedented gag provision that would have barred the release of any information on why the (blowout preventer) failed,” Horowitz said. “We also achieved the removal of language that would have exposed parties who disagreed with the joint investigation team to potential charges of federal obstruction.”