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BP Well Bore/Casing Integrity Issues and Senator Nelson’s Statements

One week ago, on the morning of June 7, I wrote about questions on the substantive physical integrity of the BP Macondo well casing and bore, and statements by Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson on the same, as well as potential resulting seepage from the sea floor surrounding the well head. To say the least it raised a few eyebrows.

I have again attached the FDL video from the appearance Nelson made on the Andrea Mitchell MSNBC show where he became the first official to materially discuss the game changing issue of sea floor seepage from a structurally compromised well below the surface. Since Nelson first made the statements and raised the questions, I have spoken to his office several times.

Here is a quote given directly to Emptywheel/Firedoglake by Senator Nelson:

Why do scientists and others suspect the well casing is breached beneath the seafloor? Well, for one, in one of my briefings I learned that a lot of mud used in the so-called “top kill” attempt didn’t come back up after it was pumped down there.

Clearly, from Senator Nelson’s quote, he has received multiple briefings in addition to the information in the public domain, and he is hearing other private disturbing reports. Quite frankly, this should be of no shock in light of that which is, and was, already in the public domain. In this post, mindful of the fact there is likely a wealth we in the public do not yet know, I would like to delve into the public evidence Senator Nelson was relying on and why this is an issue that should, and must, remain squarely in the forefront of public and media conscience.

First off, it is clear Senator Nelson’s measured statements to Andrea Mitchell were not an off the cuff or uninformed gaffe by Nelson. Quite the contrary, he and his staff had been probing the issue of the integrity of the well bore long prior to the MSNBC appearance. On June 2, Sen. Nelson directed the following correspondence to BP:

June 2, 2010

Mr. Lamar McKay
Chairman and president, BP America, Inc.
501 Westlake Park Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77079

Dear Mr. McKay:

I understand the priority of your company right now is capping the Deepwater Horizon well. But new information about the accident has come to light in two recently published accounts that raise serious questions I hope you can promptly Read more

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Time to Check In on Our Relations with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company

Apparently, the Brits are calling Americans–including President Obama–xenophobic for referring to the company shitting up our Gulf  as “British Petroleum.” So for this installment of my now-regular reflection on how, fifty-some years ago, we overthrew a democratically-elected government for that company shitting up our Gulf, I’m going to call it the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

You see, the “special relationship” between us and the AIOC is suffering a bit of a strain right now. (h/t this very good Yves post)

Tensions escalated sharply on Wednesday when the U.S. Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, said he would demand that BP pay the lost wages of oil workers in the Gulf region idled because of the administration’s order to halt new deepwater drilling for six months. That demand could add hundreds of millions of dollars to BP’s obligations.

Mr. Hayward immediately canceled an employee town hall meeting and a trip to review clean-up on the Louisiana coast, and gathered his visibly shaken executives at the crisis center in Houston. At a top management call between Houston and London to review its “Sub-sea and Surface” agenda, the top item on “Surface” issues suddenly became “Washington politics.”

“This demand is chilling,” said one executive in the meeting. “The administration keeps pushing the boundaries on what we are responsible for.”

Tony Hawyward is apparently aghast that the Obama Administration might consider nationalizing BP’s AIOC’s profits to actually pay for shitting up our Gulf.

Mr. Salazar’s comments, and reports that the U.S. Justice Department was looking into BP’s plan to pay a dividend, touched off a rout of BP’s shares.

[snip]

As the oil giant’s stock fell, Mr. Hayward holed up in a makeshift office at BP’s crisis center here and worked his cell phone relentlessly. Among those he called: leaders of the U.K. government, which had until Thursday stayed largely on the sidelines as tensions mounted between BP and the Obama administration.

Which is leading the British MOTUs to grow impatient with David Cameron’s government for not more aggressively defending BP AIOC against the American demand that BP AIOC actually pay for shitting up our Gulf.

The U.K. government has come under mounting pressure from business associations and some U.K. lawmakers, angry at the increasingly aggressive rhetoric coming out of Washington.

I’m actually really, really fascinated by this development. Ultimately, the biggest threat BP AIOC has over us is bankruptcy, thereby shielding its assets from US seizure (ironically, such a bankruptcy might look a lot like the GM restructuring). Short of that, though, the British MOTUs appear to want to escalate this into a foreign policy issue. And ultimately, they’re demanding that the needs of BP AIOC take precedence over the well-being of Americans in the Gulf.

It’s a familiar demand, since it’s the same one AIOC made those fifty-some years ago. Only back then, AIOC made the demand of brown people, not Americans (though I’m guessing brown Americans may well suffer disproportionately from this BP mess).

I guess maybe we believed a company with “Anglo” in its name–that, plus the “special relationship” that binds us Anglos–would ensure that Americans were never asked to pay the same price those Iranians were.

Abadan refinery picture from wikimedia.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Oil Flow Rate More Than Double What BP and Government Have Said

This will not be a shock for anybody paying attention to the ever changing figures from BP on what they are capturing from the containment cap versus what is blindingly obvious from watching the spillcam live video feed, but BP and the US government have yet again been dishonest about the nature and size of the oil gusher leaking into the Gulf of Mexico water.

From Reuters:

The new estimates are considerably higher than the prior “best estimate” of 12,000-19,000 bpd issued on May 27 by the so-called Flow Rate Technical Group.

The flow of crude from the ruptured well could have been as low as 20,000 barrels (840,000 gallons/3.18 million liters) per day and as high as 40,000 bpd, with an average flow rate of 25,000-30,000 bpd, according to the findings announced by U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt.

The thing to keep in mind here is that even these new higher figures are before the riser was cut off the Blow Out Preventer (BOP) on June 3. The estimate from BP and the government has been that the cut increased the flow 10%-20% from the baseline before the cut. All of which would indicate the current flow could easily be 48,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Not to mention, of course, there has not once been an estimate by either BP or the US government which was anything but a serious underestimate; so the safe bet is the real flow rate from the Macondo well is even higher yet, especially considering the visual evidence lends the conclusion the cutting of the riser increased the flow noticeably more than 20%. You have to wonder if the public will ever get a straight answer out of BP and the Obama Administration.

[Graphic – BP: Broken Promises. Logo design by Foye 2010 submitted as part of the Art For Change BP Logo Redesign Contest and used with permission]

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Chamber of Commerce Flip-Flops on Retroactive Legislation

As you’ve likely heard, the Chamber of Commerce has officially endorsed government welfare to limit corporate risk. (Again.)

The head of the United States Chamber of Commerce said Friday that his group is not yet lobbying against legislative efforts to raise BP’s liability cap, viewing the issue as not yet “ripe.”

He signaled, however, that his group would figure out a way to get the government to share in the cost of cleaning up the Gulf Coast.

It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game,” said Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “. . . Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it.  We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that.” [my emphasis]

And like an obedient orange puppy, John Boehner has embraced the Chamber’s call for government welfare for corporations.

I do agree with Steve Benen that the Republican (and Mary Landrieu) embrace of big oil ahead of taxpayers ought to be a game changer.

But I’d also like to note how, um, opportunistic the Chamber is with its insistence that “it is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game.” This is what the Chamber wrote to pressure the House to support a FISA amendment that invalidated a law holding telecoms liable for illegal wiretapping of private citizens.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly supports S. 2248, the “FISA Amendments Act of 2007,” as passed by the Senate on February 12, 2008. The Chamber believes that this bill, in its current form, provides necessary, appropriate, and targeted relief commensurate with the threat to national security that arose in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

The Chamber represents companies across various industries which own or operate vital components of the nation’s critical physical, virtual, and economic infrastructures. The federal government continually depends upon such industries for cooperation and assistance in national security matters, including homeland security programs and activities. The government also turns to these companies in times of crisis, when the speed, agility, and creativity of the private sector can be critical to averting a terrorist attack.

Therefore, the Chamber urges the House to consider S. 2248 and pass this bipartisan compromise legislation. The Chamber firmly believes that the immunity provisions in S. 2248 are imperative to preserving the self-sustaining “public-private partnership” that both Congress and the Executive Branch have sought to protect the United States in the post-September 11 world. [my emphasis]

Of course, the Chamber is being utterly consistent on one point. That’s in lobbying to make sure big corporations never pay for the negative consequences–be they legal or financial–of their actions.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Congress Thinks BP Commission Needs Subpoena Power, Too

A bunch of hippie members of Congress noticed the same thing about Obama’s BP Commission that I noticed: it lacks subpoena power.

So Lois Capps and Ed Markey in the House and Jeanne Shaheen and several of her colleagues are pushing legislation to give the Commission subpoena power.

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with nine Senate colleagues, today introduced legislation to grant subpoena power to the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which President Obama created by executive order on May 22.  Congress has previously granted subpoena power to presidential commissions investigating national crises, including the Warren Commission and the Three Mile Island Commission.  Joining Shaheen on this legislation are Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA),  Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The Senators strongly believe that the BP Commission must have subpoena power to ensure access to all the evidence it needs to undertake a complete investigation on the causes of the spill and make meaningful recommendations on how to prevent similar disasters. Today, Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) plan to introduce similar legislation in the House.

Here’s the House version of the bill.

Now, I’ve actually been told that Obama, by himself, couldn’t give the commission subpoena power–I’m trying to clarify that.

I’m still not entirely convinced this won’t be a whitewash designed to enable future drilling in any case. But subpoena power sure would help.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Bhopal Justice, Sort Of

Twenty-some years after one of the biggest industrial disasters in history, seven former Union Carbide executives have been sentenced to a few years in jail.

A court in central India ruled Monday that seven top executives and the company they worked for are guilty for their role in the 1984 industrial disaster that killed thousands in Bhopal, India.The leaking of poisonous gas from Union Carbide India Limited — the now-defunct local subsidiary of the American chemical company — was one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. Plaintiffs had waited more than two decades for the verdict.

The convicted former employees have been sentenced to the maximum punishment allowed in the case. The judge imposed a two-year prison term and a fine of about $2,000 each after convicting the men of negligence causing death, endangering public life and causing hurt.

While I’m happy that a handful of people will finally pay, however inadequate a price, I’m more interested in this because of the timing.

After Bhopal and a smaller–but still devastating–Union Carbide accident in West Virginia, the US passed regulations on similar volatile processes. During the 1990s, paper mills and chemical plants and oil refineries implemented new processes to make their plants safer for workers. But it didn’t take long for OHSA to back off of big fines. So by the time BP’s Texas City refinery disaster, some oil companies were already calculating that accidents would be less onerous than complying with the regulations passed in response to the Bhopal disaster.

The regulations passed in response to Bhopal specifically exempted drilling activities; those weren’t the regulations BP took lightly in the lead-up to the disaster.

But the treatment of BP’s violation of them at Texas City did contribute to the disaster. As bmaz has written, BP was already a corporate convict because of its past indifference to safety and regulations. Yet that didn’t prevent BP from having the opportunity to gamble with the entire ecosystem of the Gulf so it could profit.

I’m glad Union Carbide execs will finally see some prison time. But it’s not enough to hold executives accountable 26 years after huge disasters. We need to get more serious about holding corporations–and corporate executives–accountable for their crimes.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

BP Well Bore And Casing Integrity May Be Blown, Says Florida’s Sen. Nelson

Oil and gas may be leaking from the seabed surrounding the BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida told Andrea Mitchell today on MSNBC. Nelson, one of the most informed and diligent Congressmen on the BP gulf oil spill issue, has received reports of leaks in the well, located in the Mississippi Canyon sector. This is potentially huge and devastating news.

If Nelson is correct in that assertion, and he is smart enough to not make such assertions lightly, so I think they must be taken at face value, it means the well casing and well bore are compromised and the gig is up on containment pending a completely effective attempt to seal the well from the bottom via successful “relief wells”. In fact, I have confirmed with Senator Nelson’s office that they are fully aware of the breaking news and significance of what the Senator said to Andrea Mitchell.

Furthermore, contrary to the happy talk propounded by BP, the Obama Administration and the press, the likely success of the “relief well” effort on the first try in August is nowhere near a certainty; and certainly nowhere near the certainty it is being painted as.

About five days ago, I responded to someone in comments with the following:

Yeah, but I am absolutely convinced there is such a lack of integrity, from pretty much top to bottom, of the well that totally plugging it at the top just creates the blowout of whatever remaining seal they have with the cement at the wellhead. I believe they have a total clusterfuck in about every regard and are just not admitting it:

1) BP used, if not substandard, then very close to it, casing that under the circumstances was inappropriate. It is fragile.

2) They did not install somehow or another at least one major casing segment seal, and the remaining seals are now either completely blown out or on their way to it and as a result oil and gas flow is not only coming up the inside of the casing, but the outside of the casing between the casing and well bore walls in the rock.

3) BP specified a light and fluffy cement and, additionally, there may be significant breaches and voids making the cement job weak and disintegrating.

4) Even at best, the cement is in the upper depths of the well bore where the natural geologic rock structure is the loosest, weakest, most porous and fragile (hell some of it may effectively be silt). The oil and gas, which has a natural well pressure of 12,000 or so psi is going to erode and corrode through and around the cement and the porous well bore rock.

5) Being attached to the Deepwater Horizon rig by the riser, and perhaps drill string too, when all hell broke loose and it exploded, shifted and sank, it put various pressures and forces through attachment to the BOP in turn attached on the well casing head. This action may have kind of reamed out and loosened that whole situation making it even looser and more susceptible to 2 and 4 above.

6) The BOP, to the extent it had restrictions present initially, has now been eroded and reamed out by the long term flow of gas and oil upwards and then the caustic flow of drilling mud the other direction from the attempted Top Kill. It is totally fucked way worse than it even was initially.

7) The reservoir of oil in Macondo is way larger than most anybody realizes and certainly bigger than BP will admit. It is a huge mother lode. Could flow forever.

8) Did I mention that the natural well pressure may be as high as 12,000 psi??

The Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf States and all of us are totally fucked.

As Sir Richard Mottram famously said:

We’re all fucked. I’m fucked. You’re fucked. The whole [thing] is fucked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely fucked.

I may have been uncomfortably close to the mark. And the quote from Sir Richard Mottram was dead on the money; if Senator Nelson is correct about the breach of fundamental well integrity, the game is close to over for the Gulf of Mexico. We shall see where this goes from Nelson’s initial comment. But make no mistake, Nelson is a careful guy not prone to overt hyperbole, and he clearly understood the ramifications of what he was saying.

It also means, of course, that BP and the Obama Administrations continue to give the American public short shrift in the truth and honesty departments. How surprising.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Our Former Coup Client Speaks

As I’ve said before, one of the best ways to see the absurd nature of the relationship between our government and BP as they partner to try to fix BP’s disaster is to remember that fifty-some years ago, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran because it had nationalized BP’s facilities.

I invite you to think about that fact while you read this exchange with BP’s CEO Tony Hayward from the Beeb’s Andrew Marr Show.

ANDREW MARR:

What happens if, as a lot of American politicians are talking about, the US government takes control of BP or at least BP’s American operations? Is that plausible? Is that possible?

TONY HAYWARD:

I think you know what we’re doing is focusing on the response. We’re absolutely focused on the response. I think it’s for the US authorities to determine what they wish to do. All I can say is that we’re working hand in hand with the US authorities. I am talking all the time with Secretaries Chu, Salazar, Thad Allen, the incident commander to deal with the response.

ANDREW MARR:

Do you feel you’re being unfairly treated by the American political system and the media given where we are in the electoral cycle?

TONY HAYWARD:

I think it’s understandable when something of this scale occurs with this sort of environmental impact – the impact it’s had on the Gulf Coast – that people are angry and frustrated and emotional. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing. And you know I’m angry and frustrated and you know …

ANDREW MARR:

I mean no British company has been on the receiving end of American presidential anger like this I think ever before. That and the possibility of some political action and criminal action against the company has led people to start to ask whether BP itself is going to survive this.

TONY HAYWARD:

BP’s a very strong company. Its operations today are running extremely well. It’s generating a lot of cash flow. It has a very strong balance sheet. Our reputation has been based on thousands of people over a long period of time in BP doing the right thing, and we are doing everything we can to do the right thing. We are going to stop the leak. We’re going to clean up the oil. We’re going to remediate any environmental damage and we are going to return the Gulf Coast to the position it was in prior to this event. That’s an absolute commitment, and we will be there long after the media has gone making good on our promises.

ANDREW MARR:

And once you’ve done all of that, will you be paying the dividend to your investors?

TONY HAYWARD:

We’re going to take care of all of our stakeholders.

Don’t worry, Hayward told his British audience. The US won’t take over BP (or even its US operations). Nothing the US will do will prevent us from paying our dividend on time.

You see, the US can take over a country to serve BP’s interests. But it would be absurd, Hayward clearly believes, to think the US would take over BP to serve its own people.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Obama Monty Hall To Give Lovely Parting Gifts To BP Death Victims

The title pretty much tells the tale. It was just stated on The Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC that:

Family of 11 victims of the Deep Horizon explosion to visit White House next week.

Well, that is just swell.

On the day a forlorn paucity of the media belatedly report on the deceptive collusion that the US Government and BP have been sitting on physical evidence, and factual conclusions drawn therefrom, contained in the full set of video feeds they both have been viewing from the outset of the BP Macondo/Deepwater Horizon blow out, we learn the White House is suddenly going to submit to external pressure and grant the victims of the BP/Deepwater Horizon homicides a walkby meet and greet ceremonial dog and pony show. After nearly two weeks of the victims screaming they have been forgotten, the audience has been approved from on high.

How refreshing. I hope the bereaved at least get an official White House coffee cup and Presidential keychain for their participation.

This is just wrong. It is not wrong for Obama to meet with the relatives and next of kin to the wrongfully deceased of an American natural disaster. It is wrong they had to beg for it, wrong it is being sold like a new product release, and wrong it is used as a convenient image makeover for an Obama Administration recalcitrant to treat mass scale criminal, and wholesale recklessly wanton environmental behavior as what it really is.

Think this is an exaggeration? Just wait and watch. Let me know when there is individual criminal liability where it belongs, as opposed to an inbred with the corporate culture, wink and nod plea and fine scheme in collusion with BP, Transocean, Halliburton and/or their powerful lobbyists. You know, criminal prosecution of the truly criminally negligent actors and authorities. The ones making the imminently foreseeable, cold, craven and disastrous decisions precipitating the needless death of eleven souls and the biggest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. Not the kind of cozy package deal the US government is known for giving BP when they have wreaked wholesale death and environmental destruction.

I do not presume to speak for the Deepwater deceased and their survivors; but I find it hard to believe they would not rather the President and American government show they will no longer accept the absent regulatory effort, coddling of profit before morals corporate greed, and “looking forward” blind ignorance of accountability for dereliction and destruction of the ethos we should, and claim to, stand for. The dead and their relatives are entitled to better than is given the latest basketball team to win a championship.

Mr. Obama, show the victims of the negligent homicide at Deepwater Horizon you have something more than meager food for souls forgot.

[Graphic from Rachel Maddow Show via Jalopnik]

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

BP Gulf Disaster and Its Failed Russian Experiment

A couple of interesting, tangentially related things happened today.

First, in a bid to wall off the PR disaster of the Gulf spill from the rest of the company, BP has assigned someone–an American BP employee–to take charge of cleanup efforts.

BP is to hive off its Gulf of Mexico oil spill operation to a separate in-house business to be run by an American in a bid to isolate the “toxic” side of the company and dilute some of the anti-British feeling aimed at chief executive Tony Hayward, the company said today.

The surprise announcement was made during a teleconference with City and Wall Street analysts in which Hayward attempted to shrug off the personal criticism saying words “could not break his bones”.

In tangentially related news, a business unit in BP’s Russian subsidiary, TNK-BP, has filed for bankruptcy.

Russian-British oil venture TNK-BP says a subsidiary that holds the license to a huge Siberian gas field has filed for bankruptcy.

The oil company said in a statement Thursday that RUSIA Petroleum was unable to repay debts to its parent company.

Note, this is just one subsidiary of TNK-BP, but still presumably a significant deal.

I say it’s tangentially related because the dude BP has put in charge of cleaning up our Gulf was run out of Russia a few years ago.

Responsibility for the leaking well and the clean-up strategy will placed in the hands of Bob Dudley, one of the company’s most able directors.

Dudley, a US citizen, has been looking for a suitable role in the company since he was thrown out of Moscow in a battle with the Russian shareholders of the TNK-BP joint venture in the middle of 2008.

Hayward said the clean-up business would be run separately by Dudley with his own staff but the finances and budget would come from the main BP group. The BP chief executive said the purpose of the split was to allow Dudley to concentrate on the Gulf problem while he and other directors were not distracted from keeping the main business on track.

Until 2008, Dudley was CEO of TNK-BP, when he got run off by the Oligarchs. The guy in charge of negotiating with the Russians at TNK-BP during the same period was James Dupree.

Mr. Hayward delegated much of the handling of TNK-BP and the relationship with the Russian partners to James Dupree, the head of Russia and Kazakhstan for BP. He knew the business well, having worked as a senior TNK-BP executive. But that history also complicated relations in his new role, since he’d been formally a subordinate to some of the Russian shareholders, who also held management jobs.

“Dupree was a midlevel functionary who wasn’t senior enough to make any decisions,” said one person close to AAR. BP officials acknowledge they mishandled the relationship. A spokesman said Mr. Dupree wasn’t available for comment.

Around the same time Dudley was run off, Dupree was replaced by a triathlon partner of Tony Hayward. Here’s more extended background on BP’s 2008 Russian fiasco.

Dupree was–at least when this whole mess started–BP’s Senior Vice President for the Gulf of Mexico. He was the guy who first told Congress about the negative pressure tests the Macondo well failed, but neglected to mention the company pushed ahead on capping the well in spite of the tests (company lawyers corrected that version). I haven’t heard a peep from Dupree since.

In addition to Hayward’s triathlon partner, after Dudley was chased out by the Russian Oligarchs, BP brought in Lamar McKay.

Mr. Hayward also brought in a top troubleshooter with years of Russian experience, Lamar McKay, to take over talks with the AAR partners instead of Mr. Dupree, the executive who had worked for them inside TNK-BP.

Fearing detention, Mr. Dudley fled Russia in secret in late July. BP’s board was meeting the day he left and several directors were stunned when told of the news, according to people close to the company.

Before being brought into save BP Russia, McKay had negotiated several of the legal settlements–for Texas City and Prudhoe Bay–for which BP remains on probation. McKay was in Russia for just a few months before he got put in charge of BP America. McKay’s the guy who spent a chunk of time in the last month–as President of BP America–testifying before Congress.

Now, I don’t know what any of this means. But I do think it worth noting that BP keeps putting the guys who had been in charge of its failed Russian project in charge of our Gulf. It makes me ask several questions:

  • Some of the dudes who botched the Russia relationship are portrayed as very close to Tony Hayward. Is this part of a pissing contest between Hayward and Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg? (The Guardian article that reported this has Hayward denying tensions between himself and Svanberg.)
  • Is this, instead, an effort to isolate the ballooning financial responsibilities of BP from the rest of BP?
  • Why has BP chosen to put a bunch of guys who fought the Russian Oligarchs–and lost–in charge of our Gulf?

I can’t help but wonder whether this move is about protecting Tony Hayward, rather than protecting what’s left of the Gulf Coast.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.