BP Oil Spill Litigation May Threaten Solution to Real Problem

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
February 22, 2012

The BP Oil Spill trial set to start on February 27 is doomed to accomplish nothing, just as the Congressional investigation conducted post disaster left hundreds of ends loose about BP’s responsibility in the explosion. U.S. District judge Cari Barbier of New Orleans has made it clear that the scope of the trial will be limited and its main focus may not be holding those responsible for the disaster really accountable. Instead, it seems the trial will turn into a window-dressing spectacle that seeks to get money from BP and the other accused entities as supposed to making it imperative to find a solution to the current emergency in the Gulf, where millions of gallons of oil and gases are still pouring out into the sea.

Judge Barbier issued a set of directives regarding the manner in which the trial will be conducted by establishing policies he has created himself to reduce the amount of information that is presented during the process. Some of the information that will not be presented includes former BP CEO Tony Hayward’s Congressional testimony which is key in order to establish liability on the part of BP given the discrepancies that surfaced when comparing his testimony and what actually took place. New information that The Real Agenda will publish in future reports reveals that much of Haywards’s testimony was flawed to say the least, about the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Although judge Barbier has made it explicit that the main goal of the trial is to find out Who is liable for the April 20, 2010, explosion that killed 11 workers, judge Barbier himself is limiting, if not greatly reducing the amount of information that is presented, which will not allow the public to learn about the real causes of the BP Oil Spill disaster.

It seems that Judge Barbier believes that a shorter trial with less information will render a better outcome. However, by limiting the time allotted and banning  previously published information to be presented and analyzed, he could prevent the discussion of important facts and contradictions in the stories that BP, Transocean, Halliburton and even the EPA have told the public. As informed before, the trial will omit information from investigations published in the media since the disaster occurred. “In other words, he’s not going to be influenced by any out-of-court investigative findings that have been published prior to the start of the trial, but will rule solely on the facts of the record before him,” said Blaine LeCesne, associate professor at Loyola University New Orleans School of Law. This may mean that any pertinent information obtained by independent investigators, no matter how relevant to the case, will not be accepted.

The trial may then be tainted with “official” information, which by all measurable means is flawed. For example, the EPA decided to use Corexit to “clean” the Gulf waters, even though this chemical threatens the life of sea and land creatures. The EPA does this because it still enforces outdated protocols when it comes to cleaning oil spill disasters. The EPA isn’t even included as a plaintiff in the trial, even though it is directly responsible for poisoning the Gulf with Corexit.

Reading most traditional media outlets, it seems everyone believes the oil spill already stopped, with some media adventuring themselves to provide final oil spill numbers. This could not be further from the truth, because the oil spill still continues in the gulf. These facts will not be considered by the judge in order not only to obtain an economic solution to the disaster, which is what many of the parts want, but also to determine a solution to the ongoing oil spill disaster, which is the only solution to the problem that is now affecting millions of people along the Gulf’s coastline. Whatever money given to fishermen, hoteliers and other business owners or Gulf inhabitants will not solve the grave pollution problem now taking place.

Judge Barbier intends to hear the six accused parties: BP, Halliburton, Transocean, Cameron International Corp, M-I LLC, Anadarko Petroleum Co. and Moex, which settled with the government for $90 million dollars previous to the start of the trial. So the trial will be a show of six defendants accusing each other for the damage caused in the Gulf which will make it likely the judge splits the financial burden of such damages among the accused parties as supposed to addressing the real causes of the disaster and holding the individuals responsible accountable for their decisions. Additionally, the judge will also hear the accusing part, which will make the score 6-1. Six parties splitting the blame while one party tries to make sense of all the data to try to convince the judge that a crime has been committed. This is a monumental task and that is exactly why it’s important that the judge opens the trial to independently conducted investigations. Information obtained after the Gulf disaster and previous to the trial may facilitate the job of the parties — including Judge Barbier — in finding out what really happened, who is responsible, why and what the ruling should be based on the facts. Right now, judge Barbier seems to be shooting himself on the foot by limiting information, therefore making it more difficult to come up with a solution to the problem of the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It is hard to believe that judge Barbier even knows the oil spill is still happening and this is perhaps the most important consideration when assigning blame and coming up with a solution.

At BP’s request, Judge Barbier will not hear any information regarding previous oil spill disasters, such as the ones in 2005 at BP’s refinery in Texas City, Texas, that killed 15 people; the 2006 rupture of a pipeline in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; and a series of accidents at a BP facility in Scotland in 2000. According to Law.com, the trial will also ignore U.S. government findings about some of these previous accidents and the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling’s report. “The excluded evidence could weigh heavily during the trial’s subsequent phases, however, when damages — particularly punitive damages — become the focus. Barbier specifically ruled that such evidence could be relevant then.”

If mountains of relevant evidence are left out for the sake of simplicity and comfort this trial runs the risk of becoming another public circus where the people to blame will walk untouched and the only solution will be an economic one. As it is obvious, cash won’t help stop the oil from flowing out into the sea and neither will it help clean the Gulf so that life returns to its waters. I don’t hold my expectations too high in this case.


About Luis Miranda
The Real Agenda is an independent publication. It does not take money from Corporations, Foundations or Non-Governmental Organizations. It provides news reports in three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese to reach a larger group of readers. Our news are not guided by any ideological, political or religious interest, which allows us to keep our integrity towards the readers.

One Response to BP Oil Spill Litigation May Threaten Solution to Real Problem

  1. Hey Luis! Good commentary. The good news here is that this is not a jury trial–it’s a bench trial. So Judge Barbier is aware of all the evidence he’s excluded. You know the old saying, “You can’t un-ring a bell?” He can’t un-know what he already knows. The exclusion of evidence would be a lot more damaging if this were a jury trial and the jury didn’t get to hear it. Second, this is only the first phase of the trial. And a lot of the evidence he excluded for this phase will likely come in later during the part of the trial where they decide whether or not to award punitive damages.

    You’re right-it is a shame that nobody knows the oil spill is still happening. The pictures coming out of the Gulf from citizen photographers these days just make your blood boil. The beaches are streaked with oil and foamy Corexit. I could not believe that BP had 40 work boats out there studying the ongoing leak last fall, and then they just left–and nobody cared! (Details on Stuart H. Smith’s blog, if anyone’s interested.)

    Anyway, let’s hope there IS a trial. I’m terrified the Government will settle, and that would be very, very bad. We need whatever we can get in the public record!