Editorial: BP's record vital in deciding penalties

With the civil trial before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier set to begin Monday, it is important to remember what led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the company’s spotty track record on safety. None of BP’s PR efforts can change that.

The federal government’s most conclusive report on the Deepwater Horizon explosion — which left 11 men dead — found that BP’s failure to assess the risks of its Macondo well and the company’s drive to cut corners at the expense of safety were the main causes.

Significantly, the Joint Investigation Team of the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and the Coast Guard was the only non-criminal probe of the disaster with subpoena power. That allowed investigators to question, under oath, a large number of witnesses — many in public hearings conducted in Kenner — and to have access to extensive records from the companies involved.

Members of the joint investigative team clearly believed that BP personnel sacrificed safety in order to save time and money at the company’s Macondo well. The group’s September 2011 report noted that at the time of the blowout, the project to drill Macondo was behind schedule and $58 million over budget. The document included a chart keying on seven critical decisions in the design of the well and the drilling process — all made by BP managers.

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