Topics: Bonuses for Transocean execs, despite deaths of eleven people and much of the life in the Gulf of Mexico. Fed says Transocean is stonewalling on investigation, and Michael Bromwich grows a pair. Lawyers for BP plaintiffs outline strategy. BOEMRE approves deepwater well number eight. NYTimes says no to pipeline from Canada. Alaska gov. wants expidited offshore drilling.
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Despite the deaths of eleven people on the Deepwater Horizon, and the decimation of huge swaths of the Gulf of Mexico, Transocean this week awarded substantial bonuses to its executives, and lauded 2010 as a pinnacle of safety.
The deaths of the workers on the rig were noted, but said the company still maintained an "exemplary safety record" because internal safety targets had been "met or exceeded" in certain areas, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Safety accounts for a quarter of the executives' total cash bonuses. The total bonus for CEO Steve Newman last year was $374,062.
The investigative commission appointed by the Obama administration found that time and cost-saving measures utilized by BP, Transocean, and Halliburton created a dangerous and unacceptable amount of risk in the months leading up to the blowout.
In the regulatory filing, the company said its bonuses were appropriate as a way to recognize its executives' efforts in "significantly improving the company's safety record" and implementing a new internal planning system.
The filing does not completely spell out how the bonuses were tied to safety performance. The top executives received the following compensation:
Transocean explained its stance in the SEC filing:
Safety Performance. Our business involves numerous operating hazards and we remain committed to protecting our employees, our property and the environment. Our ultimate goal is expressed in our Safety Vision of “an incident-free workplace—all the time, everywhere.” The Committee sets our safety performance targets at levels each year that motivate our employees to continually improve our safety performance toward this ultimate goal. Twenty-five percent of the total award opportunity is based on the overall safety metric.
Transocean is also involved in a dust-up with BOEMRE head Michael Bromwich, who charges that the company is "stonewalling" on subpoenas for three of its employees to testify at hearings in New Orleans next week.
"In my judgment, this is less a legal issue than one of whether Transocean recognizes its moral and corporate responsibility to cooperate with an investigation into the causal factors of the most significant oil spill in United States history," Bromwich wrote. "From my perspective, this is what is at stake with the attendance of the Transocean witnesses."
Two of the subpoenaed Transocean employees, James Kent and Jay Odenwald, are being represented by private counsel and "their participation is, therefore, beyond Transocean's control," said Transocean counsel Steven Roberts, in a letter to Bromwich.
And this is not the first time that Transocean and investigators have disagreed on procedures during the probe of the blowout.
In October, members of the joint panel accused Transocean of thwarting their efforts to get to critical documents and a witness. The co-chair of the panel said at the time that members had been trying for two months to get Transocean to turn over materials related to its compliance with international safety management codes. The panel also said it had been unable to get a specific Transocean manager to come in and testify about safety.
Bromwich replied in no uncertain terms...
"Indeed," Bromwich said, "you have a range of incentives and actions available to you to influence that decision, including the threat of personnel actions up to and including termination for failure to cooperate. In my experience, senior corporate executives committed to a culture of compliance and cooperation make creative and aggressive use of those incentives and sanctions."
Matt Hennessy, the Houston attorney for Kent, called the government's position "outrageous", and that a corporation should not consider firing someone who was engaged in a "legitimate exercise of his rights".
"To have BOEM (sic) threatening Transocean to threaten my client to get him to testify is sort of unbelievable," said Michael Walsh, the Baton Rouge lawyer representing Odenwald.
The testimony of key witnesses is no longer necessary or relevant? Maybe because they have to tell the truth under oath?
Kent is an asset manager for Transocean, whose zone of responsibility included the Deepwater Horizon rig. Odenwald is a senior subsea engineer, who was in charge of the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon.
One would think that the duties performed by Kent and Odenwald seem damn "necessary" and "relevant", and testimony from either is vitally important. I, personally, would like to hear testimony from both of them, especially Odenwald.
In his letter to Bromwich, Roberts noted that the testing of the Deepwater Horizon's BOP has confirmed that it was in "proper operating condition" and "functioned as intended," but that "high pressure from the well created conditions that exceeded the scope of BOP's design constraints."
Let's hope that this indicates that Bromwich has indeed grown a large brassy pair, and will be Terminator-like in his pursuit of the truth.
When Transocean’s general counsel responded instead of Newman, explaining it was up to the employees’ individual attorneys to decide if they would appear at the hearings, Bromwich threw down the gauntlet. The message: Either help out or this could affect your work before BOEMRE when it comes to offshore drilling.
I'll believe it when I see Tony Hayward frog-marched off his yacht in handcuffs...
And attorneys for the plaintiffs in the BP chaos - fishermen, business owners, and residents claiming physical debilitation after the spill outline their strategy against the company, charging that BP and drilling contractor Transocean conspired to defraud the Minerals Management Service concerning the safety of drilling such a deep well, and that their clients were injured by the use of dispersants. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier allowed both documents to be filed by attorneys representing victims of the spill.
The MMS became the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement last June after a revamping by the Obama administration.
BP and other defendants will provide Barbier their responses to the allegations in both documents. The companies have contended that the oil spill was an accident, and while BP repeatedly has said it will pay all responsible claims stemming from the accident, it and the other defendants are contesting the allegations contained in the lawsuits.
In the second document, residents and contract workers who say they have been physically harmed by the spill, and by the chemical gumbo used to dissipate the surface oil, filed an amended complaint stating that they were injured by the use of dispersants "in an ill-conceived effort to contain and to clean up the spill. ..."
The complaint contends that BP and companies hired by BP to clean up the oil often prohibited oil-spill workers and those on "vessels of opportunity" from using protective clothing and equipment, unless they were working in the immediate area around the Macondo well.
BOEMRE Approves Operations for Eighth Deepwater Well. Approved on April 1. Not a joke...
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) approved a deepwater permit for the drilling of an eighth well that complies with rigorous new safety standards implemented in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill. This includes satisfying the requirement to demonstrate the capacity to contain a subsea blowout. The approved permit is a permit to sidetrack for ENI U.S. Operating Company, Inc.’s Well #SS001 in Mississippi Canyon Block 460 in 2,823 feet water depth, approximately 57 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.
For a list of approved permits, go to the BOEMRE website here.
As of late, I have not placed much confidence in the editorial stance of the New York Times but sometimes even they get things right...you know, blind pig and all that. They think that a tar-sands pipeline from Canada to the Gulf is a bad idea, for many reasons. Good on them.
Later this year, the State Department will decide whether to approve construction of a 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast called Keystone XL. The underground 36-inch pipeline, built by TransCanada, would link the tar sands fields of northern Alberta to Texas refineries and begin operating in 2013. The department should say no.
Alaska's governor asked federal regulators to move ahead in allowing new oil development in the Arctic Ocean, as the state looks for ways to shore up declining production.
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:
|4-01-11 06:13 PM||Gulf Watchers Block Party: Déjà Vu edition -- again||BlackSheep1|
|4-01-11 08:25 AM||Gulf Watchers Friday - They Want It All and They Want It Now - BP Catastrophe AUV #495+||Lorinda Pike|
|3-30-11 06:00 AM||Gulf Watchers Wednesday - DOJ Cornering BP for Prison Orange - BP Catastrophe AUV #494||peraspera|
|3-28-11 06:30 PM||Gulf Watchers Monday BP Catastrophe #493 Same old BP||Phil S 33|
Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.
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