In the five years before the Deepwater Horizon exploded, federal investigators documented nearly 200 safety and environmental violations in accidents on platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, describing a stunning array of hazards that resulted in few penalties.
Workers plunged dozens of feet through open unmarked holes. Welding sparked flash fires. Overloaded cranes dropped heavy loads that smashed equipment and pinned workers. Oil and drilling mud fouled Gulf waters. Compressors exploded. Wells blew out.
And yet, in their investigations of nearly 400 offshore incidents, Minerals Management Service officials failed to travel to one-third of the accident scenes, collected only 16 fines and did not investigate every blowout as their own rules require.
BP, the region’s leading offshore oil producer, reported more accidents and blowouts than any other oil company operating in Gulf waters, followed by Chevron, the region’s third largest off-shore oil producer.
BP has had at least 47 since 2005; Chevron 46, based on a Houston Chronicle review of accidents investigated by MMS in the last five years and a decade of government reports on blowouts of oil wells.
Each major oil company paid only a single fine related to violations linked to those incidents. Both Chevron and BP spokesmen defended their companies’ safety records and said their employee injury rates are low…
The Gulf’s second-ranked producer, Shell, had 22 reported accidents and has paid no related fines.
One of the biggest delays in fine collections involved BP. The company took five years to pay a fine associated with a 2002 debacle where two oil well blowouts struck the same drilling rig in three months…
In fact, agency records also show no evidence that MMS investigators visited the scene in about one-third of offshore accidents reported since 2005. In other cases, long delays in site visits were caused by unsafe conditions aboard damaged rigs, bad weather or hurricanes. But most delays and failures to go to accident sites are unexplained in reports.
RTFA. Disgusting history of corruption, inaction, complacency. Lazy, country club-bureaucrats who invent their investigations in the quiet of their offices.