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I, for one, was thrilled to discover the other day that the Department of Justice is conducting its own investigation into BP's shenanigans.  Granted, it's just the first steps, laying the groundwork for a formal investigation if whatever turns up warrants it, but you can't find evidence if you don't look for it, right?

And based on what we do know, it's appearing increasingly likely that further investigation will be warranted, according to a handful of legal experts, anyway.  One of them, former federal prosecutor Chic Foret, had this to say:

"I can almost guarantee you that a grand jury will be convened to take testimony, receive documents, hear evidence about exactly what happened."

Foret also gave assurances that the feds would be investigating everything post-spill as well, e.g. did anyone with tamper with data/evidence and thereby obstruct justice or perjure themselves, etc. Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino, though, seems to give the impression that that all won't quite matter; if what she says is accurate and brought to bear here, BP is toast that just landed butter side down:

"I think the question really is not whether criminal charges are going to be brought, but when and what type of charges," said Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino.

Ciolino also says strict liability crimes clearly apply in this case.

"Because of the fact that some migratory birds have been harmed and that oil has been released into a navigable waterway, that alone, irrespective of fault can lead to a misdemeanor criminal prosecution," said Ciolino.

From your keyboard to FSM's noodly appendages, Ms. Ciolino.  May he bless you.  However right she is, a misdemeanor criminal prosecution is looking more and more entirely out of the question, in that BP wishes that's all they'll get.  This is not the first time they've been in hot water, so to speak and Tulane Maritime Law Professor Bob Force seems to think their past infractions could weigh considerably against them in any ensuing investigations or prosecutions.  He went so far as to say "there may be a culture in this company that has to change" and that the means of affecting that change might lie in "significant criminal prosecution."

So, what's the rap sheet that gives those legal analysts such confidence in their assertions?  Oh my, where to start...let's go with this excellent overview from the WSJ, of all places.

BP made choices over the course of the project that rendered this well more vulnerable to the blowout, which unleashed a spew of crude oil that engineers are struggling to stanch.

...BP also skipped a quality test of the cement around the pipe—another buffer against gas—despite what BP now says were signs of problems with the cement job and despite a warning from cement contractor Halliburton Co.

...In an April 18 report to BP, Halliburton warned that if BP didn't use more centering devices, the well would likely have "a SEVERE gas flow problem." Still, BP decided to install fewer of the devices than Halliburton recommended—six instead of 21.

Pro tip:  if you're making Halliburton look this good, you're fucking up big time.  And it just gets better and better, or worse and worse as the case may be; definitely read the whole article.  The snippets I've quoted aren't even the half of it.  It's chock full of informative tidbits, like BP and Transocean routinely disagreed on safety procedures and that the well was already late and some $20 million over budget.  We're also treated to enthralling quotes such as Halliburton admitting that some of BP's instructions "were not consistent with industry best practices."  Another industry expert was downright baffled by BP's choice of pipe design for the well, saying "I couldn't understand why they would run a long string," meaning a single pipe.  But it's this aspect of BP's negligence that really takes the cake:

This procedure, known as "bottoms up," lets workers check the mud to see if it is absorbing gas leaking in. If so, they can clean the gas out of the mud before putting it back down into the well to maintain the pressure. The American Petroleum Institute says it is "common cementing best practice" to circulate the mud at least once.

Circulating all the mud in a well of 18,360 feet, as this one was, takes six to 12 hours, say people who've run the procedure. But mud circulation on this well was done for just 30 minutes on April 19, drilling logs say, not nearly long enough to bring mud to the surface.

...Three offshore engineers the Journal asked to review the drilling reports all pointed to the failure to circulate the mud completely as a serious mistake. Robert MacKenzie, a former oil-industry cementing engineer now at FBR Capital Markets, said, "If you have any worries about gas, if you have any worries about getting a good cement job, you should definitely do it."

I just don't see how BP comes out of this intact.  Their own drilling logs indict them!  And that WSJ piece was just the primer; if you're not following The Times Picayune on this issue, you are missing out. Crises seem to breed good journalists, the poor dears, and their coverage has been quite good.  But when it comes to detailing BP's abject lack of common sense and judgment, almost nothing beats this article from DailyFinance.  It's like the Cliff's notes guide to BP's negligence.

Problems Throughout the Well's Final Days

Mark Hafle, a BP drilling engineer who wrote plans for Deepwater Horizon's well casings and cement, testified that he made "several changes to the casing designs in the [rig's] last few days" to address problems with the well's walls and leaking drilling mud...Jimmy Harrell, Transocean's (RIG) top drilling official on the well, noted that BP was "constantly changing" the well plan.

Tests Done and Not Done

...Last month a top executive for Halliburton (HAL), the cement contractor on the rig, told Congress that a cement bond log should be done whenever a pressure test fails. BP had a team on site on the rig's last day that could have done a cement bond log test, but the team was sent home before either pressure test was performed.

Experimental cement

...the chance that the nitrogen-infused cement BP decided to use to reinforce the well could cause problems. (Nitrogen-infused cement is supposed to bond faster and prevent the drilling slurry from getting into the rock formation.) Harrell testified that the cement was a relatively new Halliburton product, and he had heard it caused problems at other rigs. The Deepwater Horizon had never used cement with nitrogen in it at great depth before.

Hangin's too good for 'em.  Burnin's too good for 'em.  They should be torn into itty bitty pieces and buried aliiiiive.

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Originally posted to Cedwyn on Sun May 30, 2010 at 01:38 PM PDT.

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