From Houston (BN): The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected BP’s request to suspend damage payments pending its decision whether to consider its appeal of a class-action deal over the Macondo oil spill (SEN, 31/ 5).
The Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans earlier rejected the bid to suspend payments while the Supreme Court decides whether to intervene—not a sure thing.
In another twist, Anadarko, nonoperating partner in Macondo, was reminded it is not off the hook. The 5th Circuit ruled it and BP cannot avoid Clean Water Act fines by blaming drilling contractor Transocean, which has accepted a $1 billion fine.
In 2011, Anadarko agreed to pay BP $4 billion to settle its share of civil damage claims in the 2010 disaster. That did not eliminate its vulnerability to government fines.
The company issued a statement saying the decision “does not alter...three prior rulings that Anadarko was not culpable in causing the spill.” Anadarko “believes that its exposure to CWA penalties will not...impact (its) ...financial position...operations or cash flow.”
US District Judge Carl Barbier has scheduled a trial in New Orleans in January to decide the fines, which depends in part on his finding of culpability: negligence, gross negligence or willful neglect. The total fine depends on his final ruling on exactly how much oil spilled.
Also on Macondo, the Chemical Safety Board issued a report blaming “effective compression” of the drillpipe after the pipe rams shut, saying resultant buckling and bending of the drillpipe rendered the last ditch blind shear ram ineffective.
CSB said the industry remains unaware of the risk, which moved the pipe off-center inside the BOP and needs to recognize it.
“This hazard could impact even the best offshore companies, those who are maintaining their bops and other equipment to a high standard,” CSB said. “However, there are straightforward methods to avoid pipe buckling if you recognize it as a hazard.”
CSB also recommended increased regulatory pressure and improved industry standards to assure that offshore operators effectively manage “safety-critical” elements.