Companies Blame Each Other for Disaster
Steven Newman, the President and CEO of Transocean, took the stand this week to defend his company's role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Newman's testimony comes as part of a civil trial in New Orleans that will determine the level of liability for the 2010 spill among BP, Transocean and Halliburton. Transocean owned the drilling rig that exploded, killing 11 workers and causing the worst offshore oil spill in the nation's history. Under questioning by plaintiff's attorneys, Newman defended his company's safety record, but acknowledged that the Deepwater Horizon disaster was "certainly preventable" and that he wished the "crew would have done more."
Transocean's investigation found that some of its workers on the rig didn't take the proper actions to make sure the rig was running safely, and thus the company pleaded guilty earlier this year to one criminal charge of violating the Clean Water Act. However, the company found no failures at the management level related to the disaster. Newman testified "we had a good system in place" and said that any rig worker can stop a drilling operation if they find a safety issue. But Southeast Texas attorney Brent Coon, who has other litigation pending against Transocean for the 2010 spill, doesn't buy Newman's testimony. "He's saying we care about our employees, we take care of everybody, we're very safety conscious, blah blah blah," Coon tells KTRH. "That's the rhetoric, but on the other side you see they were doing all these things wrong, weren't taking care, they knew about all these problems on this rig."
The bottom line, according to Coon, is that Transocean had acknowledged safety issues with its rigs in the period leading up to the 2010 disaster. "You knew you were having these problems, you were discussing them at a high executive level before this incident, and you weren't doing much about it," he says. Ultimately, Coon predicts Transocean will end up facing some civil penalties, despite the company's effort to shift the blame to BP. "Most analysts believe that's not a very good defense," he says. "Because even though BP did plenty wrong, Transocean did plenty wrong too."