Deepwater Trial: U.S. Prosecutors Say BP Knew It Was Drilling ‘Well From Hell’
By Dominic Rushe, The Guardian
Monday, February 25, 2013 13:26 EST
The man in charge of BP‘s ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig warned his boss that staff were operating in “chaos, paranoia and insanity” just days before a fatal blowout killed 11 men and caused the worst oil spill in US history, a New Orleans court heard on Monday.
In opening arguments Michael Underhill, the lawyer representing the US Department of Justice, said BP knew it was drilling a “well from hell” but that its managers refused to deviate from a “course of corporate recklessness” that ultimately led to the fatal blowout at the Gulf of Mexico well.
The company was guilty of “willful misconduct,” he said. It had calculated it needed $7bn (£4.6bn) to pay shareholders their dividend and put immense pressure on staff to save money and drill faster in order to reach that target, he said. “A safety corner cut a day saved was a $1m saved for BP,” said Underhill.
The civil trial began on Monday in courtroom 268 of the US district court in New Orleans after the apparent collapse of settlement talks over the weekend. This case is the first of two and will decide how this tragedy happened and who caused it to happen. A second will determine exactly how much oil was spilled. BP faces a potential fine of $17.6bn. The case will be decided by judge Carl Barbier.