Column: Indictments create new worries for offshore workers

Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, left, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder answer questions at a news conference on the Gulf spill settlement.(AP)

Wednesday’s column, which is available on houstonchronicle.com:

The heliport in Houma, La., is much like other airports this time of year. Travelers bustle about the terminal, checking bags and shuffling through metal detectors.

From there, though, they board helicopters and disperse among the legion of offshore rigs and production platforms scattered across the Gulf of Mexico.

This week, the crews heading to the rigs carried some extra baggage: worry.

BP’s settlement of criminal charges related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster was followed by indictments for two rig supervisors, the BP representatives called “company men” who were overseeing drilling operations.

The pair, Don Vidrine and Bob Kaluza, each face up to 199 years in prison, charged with manslaughter for the 11 deaths in the blowout.

They were supervisors, but they were also rig workers, members of a brotherhood that includes everyone who earns a living working on steel platforms miles from shore. Being on the rig forms a kinship that transcends corporate hierarchy, and many workers feel that with the settlement, the government has gone after two of their own.

Read more here.