Today was the first day of the final two-day public hearing held by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling on the causes of the Macondo well blowout. The details of the events and the decisions that were made leading up to the blowout, as recreated by the Commission’s staff, are chilling. However, the story the Commission is currently able to tell is incomplete, and may remain so, because the Commission has never been granted subpoena power.
Even though the afternoon’s panel consisted of representatives from BP and their subcontractors, Halliburton, Transocean, and Sperry Sun Drilling Service, they were under no legal obligation to contribute fully, or even at all, to the investigation, and their answers reflected that unfortunate fact. Congress is returning next week for their brief lame duck session. They alone have the power to provide subpoena power to the Commission. Without it, the Commission’s report, due to the President on January 11, 2011, will, literally, not have been able to get to the bottom of this disaster.
In an odd rush to what may be called “non-judgment”, even before the Commission’s Chief Counsel Fred Bartlit had finished his presentation of the publically known facts about the blowout, numerous media outlets claimed, with headlines such as: Spill Investigator Sees No Sign That Cost Trumped Safety, that the Commission believed that profits hadn’t driven BP’s flawed decision making
Bartlit shot back nearly immediately, stating that his remarks had been sorely misinterpreted. Even though he did say, "We've not found a situation where we could say man had a choice between safety and dollars and he put his money on dollars," which seems to be one of the statements the media ran with, Bartlit strongly reiterated numerous times throughout his team’s four-hour long presentation that “any time you're talking about $1.5 million a day, money enters in."
Tomorrow’s hearing, which will be streamed live, includes testimony from industry, academia, and the federal government on Well Drilling and Operations, the Industry’s Safety Culture, and Regulation of Offshore Drilling as well as public testimony, including remarks by GRN in support of the creation of a Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council for the Gulf of Mexico. True diehards can watch today’s hearing in its entirety tonight on CSPAN2 starting at 8:pm EST, or archived on the Commission website.