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Topics: BP Demands Scientist Emails in Gulf Oil Spill Lawsuit, Science out of context - Opinion, Statement on the Need to Protect the Scientific Deliberative Process : Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, BP Oil Spill Emails Reveal High-Level Discord Over Flow Estimates, New Gulf oil spill claims administrator's message: We are not BP. We are here to help., BP Exploring Sale of Russian TNK-BP Stake, Gazprom: Not interested in BP's stake in TNK-BP as of now, BP is free to sell Russian TNK-BP stake: source, Siberian Court Orders BP Lawsuit Trial, Trial opens in actor Stephen Baldwin’s suit against Kevin Costner over BP deal

You are in the current Gulf Watchers BP Catastrophe - AUV #588. ROV #587 is here.



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PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!
Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:
6-03-12 06:30 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party: "Look at Your Fish" Phil S 33
5-22-12 06:04 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - BOP Mandates and "Dangerous" Opt-Outs - BP Catastrophe AUV #588 Lorinda Pike
5-20-12 06:25 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party - What Unique Place Names Lurk Where You Live? (and some music...) Lorinda Pike
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A single idiot judge has guaranteed that in our country's next time of need when disaster strikes that the thunder we hear will be coming of from the feet of world class scientists running away for cover to protect the scientific process, their privacy and proprietary data.

I will confess to an enthusiastic fondness for Woods Hole and its amazing scientists long before BP turned the Gulf into their personal potty but anyone who cares about the contributions that science can make when we face disaster should be utterly horrified at this ugly legal turn of events.

June 4, 2012

BP has subpoenaed the private emails of scientists who studied the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe, stoking fears of misinformation campaigns and researcher intimidation.

On the same day, WHOI oceanographers Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli announced in a Boston Globe commentary that they’d given to BP 3,000 confidential emails requested by the company in December 2011.

'Pulling academics and researchers into litigation ... will have a chilling effect on how science is conducted.'According to WHOI, the implications of BP’s demands, which extended to “any transmission or exchange of any information, whether orally or in writing, including without limitation any conversation or discussion,” are twofold.

As scientists’ personal communications — especially the back-and-forth, give-and-take, off-the-cuff devils’ advocacy and informal discussion essential to scientific deliberation — are taken out of context, confusion will almost surely follow.

Remarks that are part of an argument will be turned into categorical statements or otherwise misrepresented, as happened after the 2009 leak of climate scientist emails. Transparency could turn to opacity.

Another possibility, one that may resonate long after the Deepwater Horizon fallout has settled, is caution and wariness among researchers. The possibility of subpoena and digital interrogation may dissuade scientists from studying future disasters and could influence how they think and communicate.

Please click through and read every word that Woods Hole scientists, Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli have shared in this op-ed. Woods Hole came to the aid of the country and BP in a time of terrible crisis. Now they are being punished with invasion of their privacy, tampering with the scientific process and possible theft of Woods Hole proprietary data.

It is truly frightening that there are no laws to protect the scientists and science in such dire circumstances.

Science out of context - Opinion - The Boston Globe

JUNE 03, 2012
Late last week, we reluctantly handed over more than 3,000 confidential e-mails to BP, as part of a subpoena from the oil company demanding access to them because of the Deepwater Horizon disaster lawsuit brought by the US government. We are accused of no crimes, nor are we party to the lawsuit. We are two scientists at an academic research institution who responded to requests for help from BP and government officials at a time of crisis.

Because there are insufficient laws and legal precedent to shield independent scientific researchers, BP was able to use the federal courts to gain access to our private information. Although the presiding judge magistrate recognized the need to protect confidential e-mails to avoid deterring future research, she granted BP’s request.

It is the lack of legal protection that has us concerned.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster caused the death of 11 people and spilled oil at an unprecedented depth of nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico. That deep-sea environment was aqua incognita to the oil industry and federal responders, but a familiar neighborhood for us at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. BP and Coast Guard officials asked for our help to assess the disaster, and we obliged.

We responded by leading on-site operations using robotic submersibles equipped with advanced technologies that we had developed for marine science. We applied them to measure the rate of fluid release from the well and to sample fluids from within the well. We then volunteered our professional time to scrutinize this data and published two peer-reviewed studies in a respected scientific journal. We determined an average flow rate of 57,000 barrels of oil per day and calculated a total release of approximately 4.9 million barrels.

BP claimed that it needed to better understand our findings because billions of dollars in fines are potentially at stake. So we produced more than 50,000 pages of documents, raw data, reports, and algorithms used in our research — everything BP would need to analyze and confirm our findings. But BP still demanded access to our private communications. Our concern is not simply invasion of privacy, but the erosion of the scientific deliberative process.

A byproduct of the order to hand over our e-mails is that BP now has access to the intellectual property attached to the e-mails, including advanced robotic navigation tools and sub-sea surveillance technologies that have required substantial research investment by our laboratories and have great economic value to marine industries such as offshore energy production. The court provides no counterbalancing legal assistance to verify that BP or its affiliates do not infringe on our property rights. Although there is a confidentiality agreement that BP is subject to, the burden is left entirely to us, a single academic research organization, to police the use of our intellectual property by one of the largest corporations in the world.

Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli are scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Drs. Avery and Madin speak for me. It is well worth remembering the dearth of scientists that were in the Gulf after the Macondo blew. Woods Hole was one of the first on the scene and they did highly commendable work. Think WHOI will be so quick to respond next time? Think scientific institutions of equal caliber will be willing to pitch in?

Statement on the Need to Protect the Scientific Deliberative Process : Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Statement on the Need to Protect the Scientific Deliberative Process
Dr. Susan K. Avery, President and Director
Dr. Laurence P. Madin, Director of Research
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A situation has arisen involving scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) that should concern all those who value the principles of academic freedom and responsibility, and believe these principles to be essential to the integrity of the deliberative scientific process. 

Today, Sunday June 3, the Boston Globe published an opinion piece by Drs. Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli about WHOI’s court-ordered production of documents in the Deepwater Horizon litigation. We offer here a fuller account of these events, and our view of what is at stake for WHOI, scientists in the United States, and society at large. What concerns us is the erosion of the academic freedom to “…remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate…” without being subject to subpoena or investigation as recognized and protected by the law going back to the 1957 Supreme Court decision, Sweezy vs New Hampshire. In Sweezy, the Supreme Court stood up to protect the freedoms of academic debate, thought, and lecture in holding, “Freedom to reason and freedom for disputation on the basis of observation and experiment are the necessary conditions for the advancement of scientific knowledge.” Unlike Sweezy, we are not facing the challenges of academics during the Communist red scare; however, the threat of litigation stifling scientific deliberation is real and troubling.

...Over the course of the spill, nearly 100 WHOI researchers, marine crew, and staff provided technical support and conducted measurements and research at the site of the spill and in the affected areas of the Gulf. Their work included measuring the flow rate and sampling the oil from the well’s failed blowout preventer, searching for and mapping a large underwater oil plume, tracking the ocean currents in the affected areas, examining the distribution and fate of dispersants underwater, and assessing the effects of the spill on coastal and deep-water ecosystems. WHOI scientists and engineers continue to do important research in the Gulf in the aftermath of this spill. The Institution is immensely proud of our staff for their dedication, skill, and willingness to assist in a time of national crisis.

At the request of the U.S. Coast Guard, WHOI scientists Camilli and Reddy led operations using WHOI-developed technology to measure the rate at which fluids flowed out of the damaged well and to obtain a direct sample of the well’s fluids. Subsequently, these researchers and their colleagues, largely on their own time, analyzed the data they collected and published two peer-reviewed studies in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.1,2  They determined a flow rate of 57,000 barrels of oil per day, which was used to calculate a total release of approximately 4.9 million barrels.

In December 2011, WHOI was subpoenaed by lawyers representing BP in response to lawsuits brought against the oil company by the U.S. government, fishermen, workers, and residents injured by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It is important to note that WHOI is not a party to the lawsuit. BP claimed in its subpoena that it needed information to better understand scientific findings by Camilli, Reddy, and others related to the flow rate measurements they made at the Macondo well. Cleanwater Act violation fines that will be levied on BP may be based in great measure on the amount of oil released; therefore, billions of dollars are at stake. 

As was stated in the Globe op-ed, WHOI turned over everything BP would need to analyze and confirm or refute the findings. However, BP demanded more—the scientists’ email communications, notes, and manuscript drafts: “…any transmission or exchange of any information, whether orally or in writing, including without limitation any conversation or discussion…” concerning the research. WHOI, through our lawyers at Goodwin Procter, challenged this demand, but on April 20, the magistrate judge ordered the institution to produce the vast majority of its deliberative work. On June 1, WHOI turned over the last of more than 3,500 emails and associated documents to BP.

While transparency to provide adequate information to reproduce scientific results is an important principle, this situation poses a serious danger to the scientific process. It threatens to facilitate misinterpretation of scientific findings by highlighting preliminary evaluations and opinions, conflating facts with assumptions, and implying conclusions without a valid scientific process or review. Even worse, pulling academics and researchers into litigation they are not a party to will have a chilling effect on how science is conducted. The essence of the scientific process is rigorous deliberation in which scientists examine, question, test, reject, and modify ideas as they work toward a verifiable conclusion. Without adequate legal protection, researchers and their institutions may reasonably fear that their deliberative process can be attacked and their intellectual property exposed, or that they will become entrained in litigation to which they are not parties and where they are unlikely to derive any benefit. As a consequence, scientists may feel forced to curtail, censor or avoid the normal deliberative process. In future emergencies, particularly those that might give rise to litigation, researchers may be more reluctant to volunteer expertise and technology.

The materials that BP demanded may include intellectual property, hard won by the researchers. While there are protections that can be placed by the court and through confidentiality orders, experts in the litigant parties receiving these materials may obtain insight into the creation of this intellectual property and be able to replicate it for their own programs even if they do not directly take it. It is unlikely that institutions such as WHOI would be able to identify or prosecute this infringement of intellectual property rights.   
...




There is something deeply disturbing about the fact that members of Congress did not toss the BP execs who told them the Macondo was only leaking 5,000 barrels a day out on their ears with some swift kicks in their backsides for good measure. Anyone who saw the widely televised video of the Macondo spewing would have known that the execs' claims were insanely ridiculous.

As satisfying as would be to see BP execs behind bars it is shameful that no one from the government put serious pressure on BP to cough up the truth early on. While I doubt there were enough resources on the planet to deal with a spill of that magnitude having a realistic estimate of the problem might have led to some better solutions that would have prevented some of suffering in the Gulf.    h/t Yasuragi

BP Oil Spill Emails Reveal High-Level Discord Over Flow Estimates

Posted: 05/31/2012 11:20 am Updated: 05/31/2012 11:57 am

A BP engineering executive warned senior BP management early on in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that internal models did not support estimates of the size of the undersea leak being provided to government officials and the public, according to company emails.

On May 15, 2010, Mike Mason, a vice president in BP's exploration and production technology division, wrote to Andy Inglis, chief executive of global exploration and production, warning him that the company's "data and knowledge" did not support the 5,000 barrel per day figure touted by executives as their best estimate of the size of the leak.

"We should be very cautious standing behind a 5,000 [barrel per day] figure as our modeling shows that this well could be making anything up to 100,000 [barrels per day]," Mason wrote in one of the emails, obtained by The Huffington Post.

The next day, Jack Lynch, BP's general counsel in the U.S., forwarded Mason's message to two BP executives leading the company's oil spill response: Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP's global exploration and production business, and David Rainey, a former BP vice president in charge of exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It sounds to me like someone who's conscious that the email might not be private, but writes it anyway because he know the risks of being silent," said Jamison Colburn, an environmental law professor at Penn State University and former enforcement litigator for the Environmental Protection Agency. "It implies the existence of a lot more internal communication on this subject."

Internal emails and organization charts obtained by The Huffington Post show that Rainey, the former BP vice president, took part in the early development of the company's flow rate estimates and reported directly to Suttles, who led the company's response.

Both Rainey and Dave Nagel, executive vice president of BP America, the company's U.S. subsidiary, are being probed by the Justice Department for potentially lying to Congress about the leak estimates, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal this week.

Rainey and Nagel discussed the spill in a May 4, 2010, closed-door briefing with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and told lawmakers that BP stood by a 5,000 barrel per day estimate for the size of the leak, according to a congressional staffer who attended the briefing.
...
The two executives also said that in a worst-case scenario, the size of the leak could rise to as much as 60,000 barrels per day, but that was only a possibility if the condition of the well deteriorated significantly, the staffer said.

Lying to Congress is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.




It remains to be seen if the lawyers won't end up with the lion's share of money from the BP settlement with victims coming up, yet again, holding the short end of the stick. Choosing a charismatic mediator to run the claims process rather than an experienced claims administrator sure sounds like a public relations plan rather than one to address the needs of victims.

There was a reader comment saying that they knew of people with sketchy employment histories who were hired by the claims center without any check of references.

New Gulf oil spill claims administrator's message: We are not BP. We are here to help.

Published: Monday, June 04, 2012, 7:00 PM     Updated: Monday, June 04, 2012, 7:07 PM

Patrick Juneau, the new court-appointed oil-spill claims administrator, began his four-state tour of 18 claims offices Monday with a powerful message: We are not from BP or the government, and we are here to help. Monday was the first day that victims of the 2010 Gulf oil spill could file claims under a class settlement negotiated in March, estimated to cost BP around $7.8 billion.

The charismatic Lafayette mediator said his first mission is to reach out to the employees who will be approving and disapproving claims. Juneau has decided to use the same vendors as former claims czar Kenneth Feinberg to staff his offices, but he said he wants to make sure they don't do what some staffers did when Feinberg was running the process on BP's behalf: act like an insurance adjuster angling to justify the smallest possible payout.

At the Harvey claims center, he received a standing ovation; he shook all 20 workers' hands and told them to be claimant-friendly. From there he went to the rest of the Louisiana satellite claims centers, in Lafitte, Grand Isle, Cut Off and Houma. On Tuesday, he'll meet with the second half of the headquarters staff, then head east to centers in eastern New Orleans; Bay St. Louis and Biloxi, Miss; and Bayou La Batre, Mobile and Gulf Shores, Ala. On Wednesday it's on to Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach and Apalachicola, Fla. The tour wraps up Thursday with visits to the centers in Clearwater and Naples, Fla.

It's not just the workers' attitudes Juneau wants to change. Feinberg paid $6 billion to 225,000 claimants in 18 months -- no small feat. But still, Juneau said, he heard horror stories about intake workers recording claims in the wrong industry, and investigations of potential fraud causing claims to fall into a "deep, dark hole," even when no wrongdoing was found. He said he's determined not to let that happen under his stewardship.

But there are still some loose ends to tie up. Juneau said he has not yet established metrics to measure his vendors' performance. The lack of performance tracking was a bugaboo early on for another multibillion-dollar disaster compensation effort in Louisiana: the Road Home program.




BP may want to sell but when doing business in Russia nothing is the slightest bit straightforward. It would be delightful to see BP and the Russian oligarchs permanently joined at the hip and feuding for all eternity. h/t Phil S 33

BP Exploring Sale of Russian TNK-BP Stake

June 01, 2012

BP (BP: 36.58, -0.18, -0.49%) is mulling a sale of its 50% stake in Russia’s TNK-BP, which accounts for as much as 29% of its production, after the British oil giant said it started receiving interest in the unit. 

BP says it has received “unsolicited indications of interest regarding the potential acquisition” and has already informed its Russian partner, Alfa Access Renova (AAR), of its intention to explore a possible sale.

The announcement follows the sudden resignation of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman as TNK-BP’s chief executive earlier this week in a reflection of the deepening rift between BP and AAR’s shareholders.

TNK-BP is Russia’s leading oil company, formed in 2003 from a merger between BP’s Russian oil and gas assets and the assets of AAR. The unit accounted for as much as 27% of BP’s hydrocarbon reserves last year and nearly 29% of its production.

AAR almost sold its 50% stake last year to BP and Russian oil products Rosneft for $34 billion, however the deal fell apart.

BP's oligarch partners are threatening to block BP's sale of its share of TNK-BP to Rosneftegaz. Let's all hope that this leads to more of the lengthy feuding which will distract the whole sorry lot from wreaking more environmental havoc.

Gazprom: Not interested in BP's stake in TNK-BP as of now

Tue Jun 5, 2012 12:54am EDT
(Reuters) - The world's top gas producer, Gazprom, has no plans to buy BP's stake in Anglo-Russian venture TNK-BP as of now, a company executive said.

TNK-BP is Russia's No.3 oil producer and BP's 50 percent stake in it, estimated to be worth about $30 billion, is one of the biggest foreign investments ever made in the country.

BP is determined to push ahead with the sale of a stake in its troubled Russian venture, dismissing a threat by its billionaire partners to block a deal that would help the Kremlin tighten its grip on the country's vast energy sector.

The British oil major said last week it would pursue a sale after receiving expressions of interest in its TNK-BP stake, a shareholding analysts say is worth about $30 billion.

Sources familiar with the matter said BP had been approached by state energy holding company Rosneftegaz, which controls a stake of more than 75 percent in Rosneft, Russia's largest oil firm.

This is a pretty good summary of the byzantine politics of the Russian oil business. I have an acquaintance in the oil business who has worked in Russia. He likened his experience there as being caught in the crossfire of warring mob families. With its typical arrogance born of ignorance BP waded right into the thick of the mess.

BP is free to sell Russian TNK-BP stake: source/a>

June 4, 2012

MOSCOW (Reuters) - BP will press ahead and sell a stake in its Russian venture, a source close to the company said, despite a threat by its billionaire partners to block a deal that could pave the way for the Kremlin to cement its dominance over the country's vast energy sector.

A successful sale of TNK-BP to the state would raise the government-controlled share of Russia's oil production to more than 50 percent and mark a major victory for the Kremlin's drive to strengthen its grip on strategic natural resources a matter of weeks after Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency.

It would also sideline the four billionaires who thwarted an earlier tie-up between BP and state company, Rosneft.

"We can sell it if we want to," the BP source told Reuters in response to reports that the AAR consortium which represents the quartet of Russian oligarchs would seek to veto any deal.

Sources familiar with the matter said BP has been approached by state energy holding company Rosneftegaz, which controls a stake of more than 75 percent in Rosneft, Russia's largest oil company.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, a Putin ally who has led strategy at Rosneft for the best part of a decade, was recently named chief executive at the state oil firm and sources say has been handed a mandate to build a national oil champion capable of competing on a global scale.

The state approach has put AAR - led by banking-to-retail tycoon Mikhail Fridman - under pressure after it took legal action last year to prevent BP from signing a major offshore exploration and $16 billion share-swap deal with Rosneft.

Fridman resigned as chief executive of TNK-BP a week ago, throwing the company deeper into a crisis of corporate governance that has left its board inquorate and blocked the payment of dividends.

Industry and political sources say the oligarch shareholders last year lobbied Dmitry Medvedev, then president and now prime minister, to oust Sechin as chairman of Rosneft.

With Putin back in the Kremlin and Sechin in control of Rosneft in both an executive and advisory capacity, it appears increasingly likely that the state will assume control of TNK-BP - either by buying out BP or the oligarchs.

"The end game is that the state buys (TNK-BP)," said one veteran Moscow-based executive. "The issue is that Fridman overplayed his hand a couple of times."

Sources close to AAR have said, meanwhile, that the consortium would be willing to buy out BP for a consideration of $25 billion.

BP paid a total of $8 billion in 2003 for one half of TNK-BP, which has since thrown off $19 billion in dividends and accounts for 29 percent of its hydrocarbons production.

But the partnership has been fraught with tension. BP's current CEO Bob Dudley was forced to leave Russia in 2008, when he was head of TNK-BP. Arbitration proceedings over the failed deal between BP and Rosneft continue.

The Financial Times newspaper, citing a spokesman for AAR, on Monday reported that the TNK-BP shareholder agreement prevents BP from giving out any confidential information to a third party without its consent.

The FT said such limitations could make it hard for a prospective buyer to complete due diligence on BP's stake, effectively giving AAR a veto right over any deal and making it harder for BP to exit without the risk of litigation.

Another source familiar with the terms of the shareholder agreement said the provisions did not amount to a formal right of first refusal clause and the owners were not in a position to block an exit by their partners.

Yet another round in the BP-Russian oligarch mud wrestling match.

Siberian Court Orders BP Lawsuit Trial

June 4, 2012, 1:22 p.m. ET
Siberian Court Orders BP Lawsuit Trial

MOSCOW—A Siberian court has ordered a new trial in a 409-billion-ruble ($12.15 billion) lawsuit against BP BP.LN +1.80% PLC brought last year by a minority shareholder in its conflict-plagued Russian venture, TNK-BP Ltd., a BP lawyer and the state news agency reported Monday.

The decision by the Federal Arbitration Court for the West-Siberian District in Tyumen overturned two lower-court rulings that had thrown out the lawsuit. The ruling could raise pressure on BP, which already is in a conflict with the group of Russian billionaires with whom it shares the ownership of the venture. BP said Friday it may sell its stake in TNK-BP. Potential buyers include its Russian partners.

The Russian shareholders in TNK-BP, a group of billionaires whose holding company is known as AAR, deny any connection to the Siberian lawsuit, although its legal arguments are similar to those AAR has made. People close to BP have said they believe the Russian shareholders could be behind the suit, noting that similar minority-shareholder claims have appeared in other conflicts involving the Russian shareholders.

Tensions between BP and AAR exploded into the open again last week, first when the Russian shareholders said the partnership had broken down and then Friday when BP announced it was considering selling its stake.




June 4

Kevin Costner managed to use his star power to get a boatload of media coverage for a centrifuge gizmo that cleans up small amounts of oil. Congress even invited Costner to hearings. The device gummed up with heavy crude but BP ordered some and said they were satisfied with the purchase, whatever that may mean.

The news was everywhere that BP was interested before Costner bought out Baldwin so its a little difficult to understand how this whole mess got to trial. One wonders if the two actors refused to settle to garner the publicity a trial would bring.

Even though Costner's pricey gadget doesn't clean up much it is a safer option than the use of dispersants. Although there were some modest improvements made during the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo cleanup the technology to physically remove oil, the safest alternative, has not significantly improved in decades.

Trial opens in actor Stephen Baldwin’s suit against Kevin Costner over BP deal

June 4

NEW ORLEANS — Kevin Costner’s fame is the only reason fellow Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin and another person sued Costner over their investments in an oil cleanup device tried out after BP’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Costner’s attorney said as trial opened in the multimillion-dollar business dispute.

Baldwin and friend Spyridon Contogouris claim Costner and business partner Patrick Smith duped them of their shares of an $18 million deal for BP to buy oil-separating centrifuges after the April 2010 oil spill.

Plaintiffs’ attorney James Cobb accused Costner and Smith of spinning a web of lies that cheated his clients out of millions of dollars, telling the eight jurors that the case is about deception “fueled by power and greed.”

Baldwin and Contogouris are seeking more than $21 million in damages. Costner and other defendants also are seeking damages in counterclaims.

Lee said Costner, who had lost roughly $20 million in an earlier effort to market the centrifuge technology to the oil and gas industry, decided to lobby BP to use the devices after the oil spill because he wanted to help protect the Gulf Coast from the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.

At the height of BP’s efforts to stop the massive flow of oil from its blown-out well, the company ordered 32 of the centrifuges and deployed a few of the machines on a barge in June 2010. BP capped the well the following month and the well was permanently sealed in September 2010.

Baldwin and Contogouris claim they were deliberately excluded from a June 8 meeting between Costner, Smith and BP executive Doug Suttles, who agreed to make an $18 million deposit on a $52 million order for the 32 machines.

As the trial’s first witness, Smith said Contogouris was highly involved in the efforts to secure a deal with BP and only has himself to blame for missing the June 8 meeting with Suttles.

“He exited on his own accord, prior to the meeting,” Smith said.

Cobb said his clients said they didn’t know about the deal when they agreed to sell their combined 38 percent ownership stake in Ocean Therapy Solutions for $1.9 million.

“They want their cake and they want to eat it, too,” Cheatwood said. “They want the money they had and they want the money they chose not to risk.”

Pacific West Resources, a company operated by Costner and Smith, also is a defendant in the case.

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