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Topics: BP’s Top U.S. Officer Called to Testify at Gulf Oil Spill Trial, Judge rules BP's 2009 oil spill in Alaska was accidental, BP Staff May Face U.S. Criminal Charges After Spill, WSJ Says, In a first, gas and other fuels are top US export, Deep Gulf drilling thrives 18 months after BP's oil spill, In a first, gas and other fuels are top US export, Shrimp season worst in recent history, A Gulf Chorus Fights BP's PR War, Oil rigs may provide bird buffet for sharks, Fund will be created to reimburse plaintiff attorneys working on BP litigation, Cameron Loses Appeal to Scuttle BP Spill Trial, Best tourism season in years’? South Mississippi begs to differ, Russian police 'harassed BP critics', BP to End Sakhalin Venture With Rosneft, We're not ready to drill safely in the Arctic, Hayward Yacht May Be Given to Charity, Financial Times Reports

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BP's top U.S. exec is going to have to give up the comforts of the boardroom for a courtroom in a trial to divvy up the percentage of blame for the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo catastrophe. BP's U.S. Chairman and President Lamar McKay has managed to weasel his way completely out of the headlines so far. Let's hope that changes when he testifies.

BP’s Top U.S. Officer Called to Testify at Gulf Oil Spill Trial

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc’s highest-ranking U.S. executive, BP America Inc. Chairman and President Lamar McKay, was subpoenaed to testify at the February trial that will determine liability for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP faces at least 350 lawsuits by thousands of coastal property owners and businesses claiming damages from the more than 4.1 million barrels of oil that gushed from the company’s well off the Louisiana coast last year.

The lawsuits were consolidated for pretrial processing by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans. Also sued in the combined cases are Transocean Ltd., which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services to the well.

Barbier scheduled a nonjury trial to begin Feb. 27 to determine which companies share blame for the explosion. The judge has said he’ll use findings from that proceeding to guide decisions in later trial phases over damages caused by efforts to contain and clean up the historic spill, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).



Judge Beistline seems to think that it's accepted industry practice to ignore oil pipeline temperature alarms for months, install said temperature alarms in a heated building and not bother using a temporary heater for oil injected into the pipeline when the original had to be sent off for repairs. Either Judge Beistline needs to be removed from the bench and/or industry standards are far too lackadaisical to allow any drilling anywhere that pipelines might freeze.

This outrageous ruling is something that should be shouted out loudly whenever the subject of Arctic drilling is raised.

Judge rules BP's 2009 oil spill in Alaska was accidental

Dec 27, 2011

A federal judge ruled Tuesday in Anchorage that BP was not negligent in its handling of a 2009 oil spill and therefore did not violate the terms of its probation.

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline found that the spill was not caused by corrosion or improper maintenance, as federal prosecutors in Alaska alleged.

At issue was whether the company should continue to be on federal probation, which it had been on intermittently since 2001. The latest term was due to end in November 2010, but BP's federal probation officer asked that it be revoked before then because of the 2009 spill that dumped 13,500 gallons of oil onto the tundra.

The line that ruptured at the company's Lisburne field on Alaska's North Slope near Prudhoe Bay had been completely or partially frozen as long as six months as the ice inside expanded. Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward alleged the company should have known the pipe was frozen and that cost-cutting measures resulted in improper maintenance and monitoring.

The judge agreed with BP's lawyer Jeff Feldman. Beistline found that the circumstances surrounding the spill were unique and that BP "was following accepted industry practices at all relevant times and could not have reasonably expected a blowout similar to the one that occurred."

A majority of the crude ended up under and near the pipeline, with the consistency of a "semi-solid surface," a "stiff Slurpee" or a "snow cone," according to an EPA agent on the scene at the time. But at least some of the oil ended up spreading across the Arctic tundra, in what was consistently described during the hearing as a "plume."




While I'm sure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is at least considering criminal charges regarding the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo catastrophe I think articles of this nature should be taken with a huge shaker of salt when they come from any financial publication. Always bear in mind that short sellers can make huge piles of money from stories such as this.

Also, DOJ frequently uses threats of criminal prosecution to flip witnesses to testify for them so these types of threats may never come to fruition. Until we see individual criminal prosecutions resulting in prison terms at the boardroom level its highly doubtful that we will see any progress in concerns for safety trumping outright greed.

BP Staff May Face U.S. Criminal Charges After Spill, WSJ Says
Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. prosecutors are preparing what would be the first criminal charges against BP Plc staff after the worst U.S. oil spill last year, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors are focusing on whether some BP employees, including several Houston-based engineers and at least one supervisor, provided false information to regulators about the risks linked to the drilling of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, the Journal said.

The charges may be brought early next year, with a conviction carrying a penalty of five years in prison, according to the report. The U.S. Department of Justice may still decide not to bring charges against BP’s employees, the Journal said, citing the unidentified people.

BP faces at least 350 lawsuits by thousands of coastal property owners and businesses claiming damages from the more than 4.1 million barrels of oil that gushed from its well off the Louisiana coast.




Big oil is happily wreaking havoc on the U.S. environment drilling for oil while U.S consumers are forced to pay more for fuel because the oil is going overseas. Phil also pointed out that big oil still enjoys great tax breaks. h/t Phil S 33
In a first, gas and other fuels are top US export
Friday, 12.30.11

NEW YORK -- For the first time, the top export of the United States, the world's biggest gas guzzler, is - wait for it - fuel.

Measured in dollars, the nation is on pace this year to ship more gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel than any other single export, according to U.S. Census data going back to 1990. It will also be the first year in more than 60 that America has been a net exporter of these fuels.

Just how big of a shift is this? A decade ago, fuel wasn't even among the top 25 exports. And for the last five years, America's top export was aircraft.
...
Still, the U.S. is nowhere close to energy independence. America is still the world's largest importer of crude oil. From January to October, the country imported 2.7 billion barrels of oil worth roughly $280 billion.

There's at least one domestic downside to America's growing role as a fuel exporter. Experts say the trend helps explain why U.S. motorists are paying more for gasoline. The more fuel that's sent overseas, the less of a supply cushion there is at home.

Gasoline supplies are being exported to the highest bidder, says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. "It's a world market," he says.

And there's a simple reason why America's refiners have been eager to export to these markets: gasoline demand in the U.S. has been falling every year since 2007. It dropped by another 2.5 percent in 2011. With the economy struggling, motorists cut back. Also, cars and trucks have become more fuel-efficient and the government mandates the use of more corn-based ethanol fuel.

The last time the U.S. was a net exporter of fuels was 1949, when Harry Truman was president. That year, the U.S. exported 86 million barrels and imported 82 million barrels. In the first ten months of 2011, the nation exported 848 million barrels (worth $73.4 billion) and imported 750 million barrels.




A Royal Dutch Shell board member proudly bellows the same greed-filled hubris that typically precedes technical catastrophes, "We are at the point where ... depth is not the primary issue anymore." Big oil may have the technology to go after deepwater oil but they sure lack the technology to reliably prevent it from going horribly wrong nor do they have the capability of cleaning up the resulting horrors.

Deep Gulf drilling thrives 18 months after BP's oil spill

Friday, December 30, 2011, 9:29 AM     Updated: Friday, December 30, 2011, 10:44 AM
ALAMINOS CANYON BLOCK 857, GULF OF MEXICO — Two hundred miles off the coast of Texas, ribbons of pipe are reaching for oil and natural gas deeper below the ocean's surface than ever before.

These pipes, which run nearly two miles deep, are connected to a floating platform that is so remote Shell named it Perdido, which means "lost" in Spanish. What attracted Shell to this location is a geologic formation found throughout the Gulf of Mexico that may contain enough oil to satisfy U.S. demand for two years.

While Perdido is isolated, it isn't alone. Across the Gulf, energy companies are probing dozens of new deepwater fields thanks to high oil prices and technological advances that finally make it possible to tap them.

The newfound oil will not do much to lower global oil prices. But together with increased production from onshore U.S. fields and slowing domestic demand for gasoline, it could help reduce U.S. oil imports by more than half over the next decade.

"In the short term and the medium term, it's clearly the Gulf of Mexico," says Matthais Bichsel, a Royal Dutch Shell PLC board member who is in charge of all of the company's new projects and technology.

By early 2012 there will be more rigs in the Gulf designed to drill in its "deep water" — defined as 2,000 feet or deeper — than before the spill.

"We are at the point where ... depth is not the primary issue anymore," says Marvin Odum, the head of Royal Dutch Shell's drilling unit in the Americas. "I do not worry that there is something in the Gulf that we cannot develop ... if we can find it."

As global oil demand climbs past 89 million barrels a day and traditional onshore and shallow water fields are depleted, the deep waters of the Gulf and off the coasts of South America, West Africa and Australia are playing an increasingly important role.

In 2000, 1.5 million barrels of oil per day were produced from deepwater fields around the globe, or 2 percent of global production. In 2011, that number grew to 5.5 million barrels, or 6 percent of global production. By 2020, deepwater oil will account for 9 percent, according to IHS CERA.

The Gulf is attractive for many reasons. Its oil fields are enormous; it straddles the world's biggest consumer of oil; it's in a politically stable part of the world; and drillers can easily tap into a vast network of pipelines and refineries. Also, despite industry complaints, the cost of royalties, taxes and regulation in the U.S. are among the lowest in the world.

By early 2012, there will be 40 deepwater rigs in the Gulf, up from 37 before the BP spill, according to Cinnamon Odell of ODS-Petrodata. BP received its first permit to drill in late October.

As the BP disaster made clear, drilling in deep water presents difficulties and dangers. Last month a Chevron well in the deep waters off of Brazil ruptured and spilled 2,400 barrels of oil into the Atlantic after Chevron underestimated the pressure of the oil field it was tapping.

Challenges like this have helped push the average cost of producing oil in the deepwater Gulf to $60 a barrel, according to IHS CERA, near the highest level ever. But with oil close to $100 a barrel, the expense is well worth it.

After all 35 wells are drilled for Perdido, its owners will likely have spent $6.2 billion on the project, according to Wood Mackenzie. But along with the risks, the Gulf offers great rewards: Perdido could ultimately generate $39 billion in revenue and $16 billion in profits.




Big oil is happily wreaking havoc on the U.S. environment drilling for oil while U.S consumers are forced to pay more for fuel because the oil is going overseas. Phil also pointed out that big oil still enjoys great tax breaks. h/t Phil S 33
In a first, gas and other fuels are top US export
Friday, 12.30.11

NEW YORK -- For the first time, the top export of the United States, the world's biggest gas guzzler, is - wait for it - fuel.

Measured in dollars, the nation is on pace this year to ship more gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel than any other single export, according to U.S. Census data going back to 1990. It will also be the first year in more than 60 that America has been a net exporter of these fuels.

Just how big of a shift is this? A decade ago, fuel wasn't even among the top 25 exports. And for the last five years, America's top export was aircraft.
...
Still, the U.S. is nowhere close to energy independence. America is still the world's largest importer of crude oil. From January to October, the country imported 2.7 billion barrels of oil worth roughly $280 billion.

There's at least one domestic downside to America's growing role as a fuel exporter. Experts say the trend helps explain why U.S. motorists are paying more for gasoline. The more fuel that's sent overseas, the less of a supply cushion there is at home.

Gasoline supplies are being exported to the highest bidder, says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. "It's a world market," he says.

And there's a simple reason why America's refiners have been eager to export to these markets: gasoline demand in the U.S. has been falling every year since 2007. It dropped by another 2.5 percent in 2011. With the economy struggling, motorists cut back. Also, cars and trucks have become more fuel-efficient and the government mandates the use of more corn-based ethanol fuel.

The last time the U.S. was a net exporter of fuels was 1949, when Harry Truman was president. That year, the U.S. exported 86 million barrels and imported 82 million barrels. In the first ten months of 2011, the nation exported 848 million barrels (worth $73.4 billion) and imported 750 million barrels.




Yet another infuriating example of an official being very quick to minimize the impact of BP's black monster by publicly speculating as to other causes for horrendously poor shrimping. One of the local shrimp processors only processed four percent of what they normally do.

There also doesn't seem to be any independent scientific work being done as to why the shrimp catch was so low nor any concerning what the future might hold. BP has a huge say in how the National Recovery Damage Assessment funds will be spent so shrimpers from the area hardest hit by oil face an uncertain future.

What is not mentioned in the article is that many poorer people depend on locally caught shrimp for a large part of their diet so one wonders what they may be doing for protein in their diet. There is also the question of safety even if enough local fish can be caught to make up for the reduced shrimp availability. h/t 1BQ and Yasuragi

Shrimp season worst in recent history

Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 11:06 a.m.

Today's sunset will bring an end to what many fishermen have called the worst fall white-shrimp season in recent memory.

The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced last week that most inside waters would be closed to fishing to protect developing shrimp and allow them to grow to more marketable sizes.

State biologists say there's no official data yet on how bad the season was or what may have caused it. Many shrimpers remain worried that the oil spill and chemicals related to the cleanup caused low shrimp catches, though there's no official evidence to back that up.

“I've been in the shrimp processing business for 34 years, and this is the worst fall shrimp season I've ever seen,” said Danny Babin, general manager of Gulf Fish Inc. in Houma, who will be representing parts of Houma, Grand Caillou and Dularge on the Terrebonne Parish Council next year.

Dean Blanchard, a seafood processor on Grand Isle said his company would normally process more than 1 million pounds of shrimp in November. This year, they only brought in 40,000 pounds.

“The shrimp season was average from Dulac to west Louisiana, and above average in Biloxi and Alabama. But over here where the oil hit, there's nothing,” Blanchard said.

Many shrimpers remain concerned that the oil and related chemicals crashed shrimp populations and could continue to affect fishing into the future.

“Everyone speculates, but it sure is a coincidence that this happens the year after the oil spill,” Babin said. “I don't think it is a coincidence. But we're not biologists, we're just shrimpers and processors.”

“People can't pay their bills,” Blanchard said. “I come to work and every day someone's trying to get a loan.”

Martin Bourgeois, a biologist with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said the state has received the same anecdotal stories about the poor season. But hard data about how this season compares to past years won't be available until March, when trip tickets have been returned and processed.

Bourgeois said it's difficult to speculate on what caused the poor season.

Researchers will investigate whether the spill is to blame as a part of the Natural Resources Damage Assessment, a process that will determine how the spill impacted all aspects of the Gulf Coast environment. That process will likely take a decade or more.

There are other factors that could have depressed shrimp catches this year, Bourgeois said.

There was near-record flooding in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers this spring, which could have impacted the fall shrimp season, though it's not certain, he said. Freshwater flooding can deplete oxygen levels, causing marine animals to flee or die. Fresh water could also displace shrimp from the areas where they typically reproduce and develop, Bourgeois said.

In addition, there's been declining participating in the shrimp industry. There aren't as many fishermen, there aren't as many licenses sold and there aren't as many trips taken.




The National Resources Defense Council has done yeoman's work in the Gulf from the git-go and remain engaged after so many have wiped the tragedy from their memories. Please click through to read comments from many of the people who remain on the front lines to learn about the reality that faces Gulf residents and environment.

A Gulf Chorus Fights BP's PR War | Rocky Kistner's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC

Posted December 30, 2011

BP's newest PR salvo touting its Gulf cleanup hit a nerve with many residents still struggling to get their lives back (one ad captured this BP beach protest in the background). The oil behemoth's slickly produced pleas for Americans to “come on down” to the Gulf where the weather is warm, the food is sublime and the beaches are sparkling clean--at least in the commercials--has long stuck in the craw of people whose shrimp boxes are bare and whose beaches and bayous are sometimes littered with sticky tar balls and bloated dolphins.    

But what if BP took a different tact this coming year? What if the oil giant —which scooped up profits worth nearly $5 billion last quarter and is planning to drill anew in the deepwater Gulf—decided to give a voice to those enduring the worst fishing season in memory? What if BP decided to tell the stories of families suffering from debilitating health problems they blame on the crude and chemical dispersants, oil that still mysteriously bubbles up near BP’s Macondo well 40 miles offshore?

If such a miracle were to take place, I have a great list of characters and stories for BP to choose from. They are all hard working people who care about their health and environment; many are salt-of-the earth folks who before the BP disaster rarely complained about the oil industry. But the oil spill changed that. And their stories have largely been ignored by the media and those in the halls of Congress, not to mention oil industry bosses in country club lounges. (Check out NRDC's film Stories from the Gulf that aired on the Discovery Channel earlier this year).

Their stories are crucial; after all, who will protect the common working man and the critters in the sea, as one fisherman asked me?  Who will stand up for their special interests?…The oil, seafood and tourism interests all want to keep it quiet. The politicians just follow suit; after all, we know where their bread is buttered. The feds drew a line in the sand shortly after the well was capped last year. The oil is gone and the seafood is safe. End of story.

Except it isn’t. As NRDC’s Miriam Rotkin-Ellman and Gina Solomon reported last fall in their landmark peer-reviewed seafood safety study, the government simply doesn’t set adequate safety levels or test for many oil contaminants that can be harmful to seafood consumers, especially to children and pregnant mothers.

And every storm in the Gulf brings a fresh wave of tar balls and oily gunk onto the beaches and bayous. Where do you think that's coming from? Experts say plenty of oil is still sunk on the bottom, some of it in thick tar mats lying just offshore. It's not clear what will happen to it.

So this brings us back to BP's ads. Just in case anyone is out there with a sympathetic ear, a producer or reporter looking for a different version of reality to explore, here are some people who won’t be part of BP’s latest promotional onslaught. These are all people I've blogged about over the past year, folks who hardly any local politician, tourism official, seafood distributor or oil industry exec wants to promote. But they are there if you want to find them. And they won’t be silenced.

But maybe next year will be different; perhaps the powers that be will confront the fact that the oil damage has not magically gone away and that the fertile fishing grounds of the Gulf appear to be getting worse. It seems inevitable that at some point society will have to pay attention to the voices crying out for a clean and healthy environment, a better life for their kids and justice for damage done. 

We must and we will. Because they won’t stop making their voices heard until we really make it right.




Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is so deep in the pockets of big oil that they used a press release to champion how wonderful oil platforms are for migrating birds and leaving out the part about the dangers they pose. What is sadder is that the problem can be 90 percent solved by simply changing the color of the lights on the offshore rigs from yellow to green.

The birds circle the rig lights at night until they drop from exhaustion. No new government studies are planned until 2013.

Oil rigs may provide bird buffet for sharks

Sunday, January 01, 2012, 6:00 AM

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Alabama -- Heaped on a table at the laboratory, the pile of beaks, feet, eyeballs, feathers and whole bird carcasses testified to what may be the oil industry’s most unexpected environmental impact.

For the second year in a row, researchers at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab have found the remnants of migratory birds in the bellies of tiger sharks caught off Alabama.

The body parts provide compelling evidence of the mortal toll that oil platforms take on birds migrating across the Gulf of Mexico each year. The carcasses also highlight an issue federal officials have essentially ignored since it was revealed seven years ago.

A federal study from 2005 described a phenomenon known as “nocturnal circulation.” Groups of birds migrating across the Gulf on cloudy nights can be disoriented by the brightly lit oil platforms and fly around them in circles for hours, often until they become exhausted and fall into the sea and die.

That study called for further investigation, but federal officials never followed up, according to a statement from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement emailed to the Press-Register.
...
Some observers have described clouds of up to 100,000 birds circling a single platform at night.

But calculating the actual toll has been difficult, as the carcasses simply disappear when the birds fall.

Complicating an accurate count of the dead, many birds are believed to stop circling and resume their migration when the morning sun comes up. Whether they are able to complete their journeys after flying in a circle for eight hours remains an open question, scientists say.

Enter Marcus Drymon, a shark researcher at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. After reading an article about the phenomenon in the Press-Register in 2010, Drymon began paying more attention to the masses of feathers he often found inside sharks he was dissecting.

In the past two years, Drymon’s team has identified the remains of a number of woodland birds inside the sharks, including brown thrashers, woodpeckers, scarlet tanagers, meadowlarks, catbirds, kingbirds and swallows. With the addition of DNA analysis, Drymon hopes to gain a fuller picture of what is getting eaten and how often.

With numerous platforms off the Alabama coastline, Drymon said there was no question the sharks often feed near the giant structures. And, he said, the platforms are directly in the center of the Dauphin Island Trans-migration thruway, one of the most important migration corridors in the hemisphere.

Drymon said that a few days after he read about the nocturnal circulation problem last year, he noticed feathers in the throat of a tiger shark he was pulling onto a research boat.

“This is a really interesting aspect of this story. Look at the migration pathway. These are not birds we would expect to find in tiger sharks,” said Drymon, whose research represents the first proof that Gulf sharks are routinely gobbling up land-based birds.

Stanley Senner, with the Ocean Conservancy, said Drymon’s work also has important ramifications for the scientists calculating how many birds died during the BP oil spill.

“I will be eager to see how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accounts for birds consumed by sharks in the final tally of birds killed by BP oil,” Senner said.

The 330-page federal study found that once migrating birds “get inside the cone of light surrounding the platform, they are either reluctant to leave or have a difficult time getting out, seemingly becoming trapped by the surrounding wall of darkness.”

When the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement — then known as the Minerals Management Service —published the study, it also issued a press release titled “Oil and Gas Platforms Provide Haven for Migrating Birds.” The press release made no mention of the circling behavior, although it was listed in the full study as one of three “primary” impacts that platforms have on migratory birds. Birds flying into the platform structures and dying was another primary impact.

A paper published by researchers in the North Sea suggested that a switch from yellow lighting at platforms to green lighting would nearly eliminate the circling behavior. Scientists working with Royal Dutch Shell speculated that such a switch would reduce the number of birds circling platforms in the North Sea from 6 million a year to 600,000.
...U.S. officials have not followed up on the North Sea work.




It looks like the plaintiff's lawyers will be doing well. Would that such care be taken to see that victims get paid.

It appears that it's not all smooches and hugs between Bobby Jindall and his AG. As satisfying as it is to see Republicans at loggerheads with one another this does not bode well for Louisiana effectively presenting its case and it suffered the worst of BP's black monster's wrath.

Fund will be created to reimburse plaintiff attorneys working on BP litigation

Thursday, December 29, 2011, 3:45 PM Updated: Thursday, December 29, 2011, 3:48 PM

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has granted a hotly contested motion to create a fund that could eventually reimburse plaintiff attorneys for their work in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill litigation over the objections of several parties to the case. Barbier's order does not actually award "common benefit fees," or the amount of money that the committee of plaintiff attorneys pressing the case for the benefit of all claimants would get to compensate them for their time and expenses.

Rather, it sets up a fund that would ultimately pay such fees, should they be awarded, and requires defendants and states in the case to begin holding back a percentage of any settlements as contributions to the fund.

A percentage of settlements reached through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the $20 billion fund administered by Washington mediator Kenneth Feinberg, will also be required to be contributed to the fund.

"The Court does not at this time decide whether to award common benefit fees or expenses to the PSC (plaintiffs steering committee). Those matters are reserved for another day. But, it is necessary to establish a mechanism to create a fund that could potentially be available to pay such fees and expenses if and when deemed appropriate. Before any such awards are made, there will be adequate due process given, with notice and opportunity to be heard on issues relating to any request for disbursements from the common benefit fund," Barbier wrote on Wednesday.
...
The reserve account issue was also the latest in the BP litigation to highlight discord within the State of Louisiana in dealing with the case.

Earlier in the litigation, Gov. Bobby Jindal's office hired its own attorney in the case, and that person serves on the plaintiff steering committee, while Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office argued that it should not have to work through the committee of plaintiff attorneys because of sovereignty issues. The attorney general's argument was rejected, Alabama's attorney general was appointed to work with the plaintiff committee as coordinating counsel for state interests, and Louisiana's chief legal officer has found himself outside the major lines of debate. Meanwhile, the state has been castigated by the court for falling behind on producing documents relevant to the case while other parties have kept up with the rigorous schedule necessary to prepare for trial.

In this instance, the Attorney General's office objected to the creation of the reserve account, while the Governor's office said it had no objection to the creation of the fund, as long as certain categories of recovery for the state were exempted from fees, and the Governor's office further reached an agreement to work together with the plaintiffs committee.

Barbier did not have kind words for the Attorney General's office, and noted that the Governor's office had to step in to ensure that documents were produced. "The Court has on multiple occasions encouraged the State of Louisiana to cooperate with the PSC and the State of Alabama insofar as their interests are aligned versus the Defendants in this complex MDL (multi-district litigation). Rather than cooperate or attempt to work collaboratively, the State of Louisiana, through its retained private counsel, has instead often obstructed and frustrated the progress of the litigation," Barbier said in his order.
...




As a practical matter Cameron losing its appeal demanding a jury trial will likely make things move a bit faster through the court system which should be some small help to victims. However, for a case of this magnitude I'm inclined to think that a jury trial serves the public interest much better.

Cameron is the world leader in the manufacturing of blow out preventers (BOPs) which remain woefully inadequate as a fail-safe device for deepwater drilling. Big oil and the government sneakily try to imply that BOPs are fail-safe devices without using the "fail-safe" word. A big public fuss at trial discussing the multitude of current BOP shortcomings is not something that either would likely want to happen. h/t Yasuragi
Cameron Loses Appeal to Scuttle BP Spill Trial

Dec 26, 2011 4:54 PM CT

Cameron International Corp. (CAM) lost its appeal to derail the February nonjury trial over which companies should be blamed for the 2010 BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rejected Cameron’s claim that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier wrongly cited maritime law to allow him to conduct a nonjury trial over liability for the incident. Cameron contended that claims against the company fall under the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which allows for a jury trial.

“The district court did not clearly err in concluding that the limitation proceeding is within the court’s admiralty jurisdiction,” the three-judge panel said in a one-paragraph decision today. The court rejected review of other issues raised by Cameron.

Cameron asked the appeals court to throw out the existing trial plan and rule that the company has a right to a trial before a jury. Today’s ruling removes a possible obstacle to the nonjury trial before Barbier that is scheduled to begin Feb. 27 in New Orleans to determine liability and apportion fault.

The lawsuits for injuries, economic and environmental loss are combined before Barbier in New Orleans. The judge has cited maritime laws as the basis for his decision to review liability issues without a jury.

The appeals case is In re: Cameron International, 11-30987, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The lawsuits are combined in In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).




BP continues to use the truth as economically as possible. I doubt that even the extremely small, cherry-picked sample BP is using in its current ad blitz would even qualify as a half-truth.
‘Best tourism season in years’? South Mississippi begs to differ
Dec. 31, 2011
‘GULFPORT -- BP’s claim that 2011 was “the Gulf’s best tourism season in years” doesn’t hold true for Mississippi.

The company made the claim in television advertising it has been running in selected areas of the country since November as part of an effort to promote the Gulf states after the oil disaster.

“We were not breaking records this summer,” said Linda Hornsby, Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association director, “not on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

Ray Melick, a spokesman for BP, said that most of the data claiming tourism records came from Alabama and Florida beach communities.

In Mississippi, however, casino revenue has been lagging, hotel- and motel-room occupancy was down almost 12 percent in the first nine months compared with the same time last year. And room revenue, though up by almost 6 percent over 2010, didn’t touch the 2008 level.

“I’m not sure the claim ‘best tourism season’ is accurate,” said John McFarland, chairman of the Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Partnership, set up to spend the millions of dollars BP set aside to promote the Mississippi Coast. “When we saw the first round of advertising that said ‘best year,’ several of us said, Dec. 31, 2011

For an ad campaign that began airing nationally right after Christmas, BP adjusted the statement to say, “many areas on the Gulf Coast” had their best tourism season in years.




More evidence, as if any was needed, proving there are no depths to which BP won't sink for the sake of greed. Local law enforcement in the U.S. also was happily doing BP's bidding in keeping reporters away from areas that BP did not want them to see. There seems to be no check that prevents corporate corruption of law enforcement. h/t Yasuragi

Russian police 'harassed BP critics'

27 Dec 2011
Andrey Prokhorov and six other minority shareholders in TNK-BP Holdings, the operating subsidiary of TNK-BP, have claimed in a Russian court they faced "threats of criminal proceedings and psychological pressure … to give self-incriminating evidence and withdraw legitimate suits" over ongoing legal action against BP.

Mr Prokhorov also alleged he "was forced to sign a statement that he had no claims against BP and its officers … [and] that the statement was obtained from him in violation of the laws of the Russian Federation".

The claims are the latest twist in BP's troubles over an aborted deal with state-owned Rosneft to explore Russia's Arctic shelf. It collapsed this year after a battle between BP and AAR, a consortium of four oligarchs who own the other half of TNK-BP. UK courts ruled the deal contravened BP's existing agreements with AAR.
...




I expect there is more to this story since the Russians won't be seeking any partner to replace BP. It's a bit of a shame as BP does more squabbling with its partners in Russia than drilling which reduces their ability to make mischief.
BP to End Sakhalin Venture With Rosneft
DECEMBER 30, 2011, 10:41 A.M. ET

LONDON—BP PLC said it will end its 13-year alliance with Russian state-owned oil company OAO Rosneft to explore for oil and gas in Sakhalin, due in part to the economics of the Far East project.

The U.K.-based energy producer said that in recent meetings with the shareholders and board of ZAO Elvary Neftegaz it confirmed its intention to exit the joint venture. "There are many reasons for this decision, including the challenging economics of the discovered resource in the KV [Kaigansky-Vasuykansky] block," BP said Friday.

The end of the joint venture marks a further Russian retreat for BP. In January, Rosneft agreed with BP to a $16-billion share swap and development of three Arctic offshore licenses, but that deal was blocked by BP's partners in the TNK-BP Ltd. joint venture. Rosneft later announced a global partnership with Exxon Mobil Corp.

BP said Friday it will work with Rosneft to find the best way to accomplish its exit from Sakhalin. In his remarks to Interfax, Mr. Khudainatov said Rosneft remained "very interested" in the project but wouldn't offer participation to anyone else following BP's departure.




This opinion piece from a well-qualified expert points out that we are not close to being prepared to drill in Arctic safely——something that should be painfully obvious to anyone with more than a single functioning brain cell. I would, however, strongly disagree with the point that reforms that have been made have been made by the former Minerals Management Service are "not insignificant."

We're not ready to drill safely in the Arctic

Published: January 1st, 2012 11:45 PM
Last Modified: January 1st, 2012 11:46 PM

For those of us who have watched with dismay as the Obama administration moves forward with approval after approval of Shell's oil drilling permits for the Arctic Ocean, there's a logical disconnect: Why would the administration allow drilling in the Arctic Ocean when there's a reasonable likelihood of a disaster in the making?

• Very few of the post-BP Oil Spill Commission's and the National Academy of Engineering's recommendations have been implemented, including no reforms to date by Congress.

• Our understanding of the region's ecology and the impacts a major spill would have, including on subsistence, is greatly insufficient, according to the administration's own study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Additionally, there's no plan to remedy that problem.

• Spill "cleanup" technologies are primitive, with recovery of oil contacting the ocean measured in single-digit percentages.

The reforms that the former Minerals Management Service has enacted since the BP spill, while not insignificant, are nowhere near enough to ensure there will not be a major spill associated with offshore drilling in the Arctic. We are not ready to drill there.

Perhaps most important regarding Shell, the company had major offshore drilling-related spills in the North Sea in August and off Nigeria in December, both from low-tech problems that should never have happened. These spills -- the worst in a decade in each region -- do not inspire confidence in the company's ability to operate without problems and appear to show a poor company-wide "safety culture."

On top of this problematic recent spill record, add the harsh, unforgiving Arctic environment with high winds, frequent fog, strong currents, and ice and cold water that make current "cleanup" strategies essentially useless. Is the administration taking companywide problems and natural hurdles into account?

The BP tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico during the summer of 2010 in which 11 died and approximately 200 million gallons were released served as a warning for the country that our offshore drilling system -- i.e., the technology and the oversight -- requires major changes. December's sinking of a Russian drill rig in Arctic sea conditions with 17 known dead and 36 missing is yet another warning.

Lois Epstein is an engineer, Arctic Program director for The Wilderness Society and a member of the Offshore Energy Safety Advisory Committee for the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.





It would appear that Tony Hayward is bored with his yacht that he so effectively used to insult everyone who cared about the catastrophe and heartache BP caused in the Gulf. I wouldn't take any bets he would show the sensitivity to donate the yacht to a charity to benefit those he harmed so badly.
Hayward Yacht May Be Given to Charity, Financial Times Reports
Jan 2, 2012 9:09 AM CT

A yacht part-owned by Tony Hayward, BP Plc (BP/)’s former chief executive officer, may be given to an unidentified charity, the Financial Times reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Hayward drew criticism in June 2010 when he took part in a yacht race less than three months after the accident which led to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis, the FT said.

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:

12-26-11 05:41 PM Gulf Watchers Monday - FDA OKs 10k x Safe Limit on Contaminated Seafood - BP Catastrophe AUV #573 Yasuragi
12-19-11 04:00 PM Gulf Watchers Monday - BP wins new Gulf deepwater oil leases - BP Catastrophe AUV #572 peraspera
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.
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