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Human rights impact assessment might have prevented US Gulf oil disaster & its huge costs for BP - comment by lawyer Raymond Brown

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Article
27 July 2010

BP Executives' Human-Rights Miscalculation: Have They Bet the Company?

Author: Raymond Brown - Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis law firm, on DiversityInc [USA]

"A fisher[man] who can no longer eat the fish he catches because the water has been polluted...may not know that access to safe and nutritious food is actually a human right..."... Before the recent...Deepwater Horizon [disaster]..., one could assume that no BP executive imagined that our "fisherman" with the inedible catch might be an American... BP's leadership...[has] performed many human-rights impact assessments (HRIAs) in other parts of the world... How, then, did BP executives fail to grasp the human-rights implications of drilling activities in the Gulf?... The first [possible explanation] is that BP executives deliberately risked disaster for profit. The second is that BP inadvertently failed to perform a thorough risk assessment... In part, it appears that BP's executives shared the view of many in the western business world that human-rights issues are relevant to ventures in "third world," "frontier" or underdeveloped countries... BP and other major oil companies did limited environmental assessments...[but they] failed to identify the [human rights] consequences of a disaster... [An] HRIA incorporates interaction with "rights holders"...

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Article
27 July 2010

[video] [Report on impacts of Gulf of Mexico oil disaster - available to view in UK only]

Author: BBC Newsnight

[19-minute BBC Newsnight video report on impacts of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, including interviews of people impacted by the spill. Brent Coon, lawyer who is bringing lawsuits against BP over the Gulf spill and who led the successful civil litigation against BP over Texas City refinery explosion in 2005, predicts U.S. Department of Justice investigation will see BP executives end up in jail. Includes comments by BP, U.S. Congressman Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), former BP executive Richard Pike. Currently BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only]

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Article
23 July 2010

Technician for Deepwater Horizon testifies that warning system disabled [USA]

Author: David S. Hilzenrath, Washington Post

[A]n alarm system [on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig] designed to automatically alert the crew and prevent combustible gases from reaching potential sources of ignition had been deliberately disabled, the former chief electronics technician on the rig testified Friday. Michael Williams,...told a federal panel probing the disaster that other critical systems had been functioning unreliably in the run-up to the blowout...If the safety system was disabled, it would not have been unusual. Williams said that when he discovered that the alarm system was inhibited, he reported it to supervisors. He said they informed him that orders were to keep it that way. The Deepwater Horizon was owned by Transocean, which employs Williams, and was operating under contract to BP... Transocean provided statements taken from crew members saying they heard alarms, and it also released part of an April inspection report that found "no [gas] detectors either in fault or inhibited condition, other than units being serviced."

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Article
22 July 2010

BP accused of 'buying academic silence' [USA]

Author: Robyn Bresnahan, BBC News

The head of the American Association of Professors has accused BP of trying to "buy" the best scientists and academics to help its defence against litigation after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill... BP says it has hired more than a dozen national and local scientists "with expertise in the resources of the Gulf of Mexico". The...contract offered to scientists by BP...says that scientists cannot publish the research they do for BP or speak about the data for at least three years, or until the government gives the final approval to the company's restoration plan for the whole of the Gulf... And...scientists must take instructions from lawyers...at BP... "Our ability to evaluate the disaster and write public policy and make decisions about it as a country can be impacted by the silence of the research scientists who are looking at conditions," [Cary Nelson of the Association] said. "It's hugely destructive..." In its statement, BP says it "does not place restrictions on academics speaking about scientific data"... But New Orleans environmental lawyer Joel Waltzer looked over the contract and said BP's statement did not match up.

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Article
22 July 2010

BP official denies cost overruns trumped safety

Author: Sabrina Wilson, Fox 8 News [New Orleans, USA]

...[An] investigative panel heard candid testimony from a widow of a rig worker killed during the April 20th rig tragedy... Her husband worked for TransOcean, which owned the rig and was operating it for BP's drilling project. She accused her husband's supervisors of dwarfing safety concerns to save money... John Guide, a BP Wells Team Leader quickly faced questions from investigator Jason Matthews of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management... Matthews wanted to know if BP put money ahead of lives Matthews asked Guide, "Do you think that BP did everything they could to manage the risk as low as possible?" Guide replied, "Yes, sir." Though workers from the company Schlumberger were on the rig to conduct a final cement strength test, BP opted against it... But Guide said all of the other indicators showed the well was in good shape.

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Article
21 July 2010

Oil groups form $1bn spill response unit [USA]

Author: Sheila McNulty, Financial Times

Four of the world’s biggest oil companies announced on Wednesday that they were pooling $1bn to form a joint venture to develop a deepwater Gulf of Mexico oil spill response and containment system. ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips will each initially invest 25 per cent in a new standalone company. BP has not been included...The role of the venture will be to develop and have available in the waters of the Gulf equipment to prevent another spill on the scale suffered by BP’s Macondo well. The joint venture will permit others operating in the deepwater fields to join, allowing them to access the equipment in case they have an accident. The venture is seen as an attempt by the oil groups to secure permission to return to deepwater drilling in the Gulf...The White House...underscored that the ongoing investigation of the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster would ultimately dictate the kinds of safety regulatory reforms that will be needed to make deepwater drilling safe [also refers to PFC Energy]

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