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Feds suggest new BOP guidelines. Opt-out of the BP class-action? Be careful, that might not work. LSU and others get funding for mental health programs related to effects of the spill. Kurt Mix wants to travel. Calls to prosecute BP execs.

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Feds lay out plans for new blowout preventer mandates.

As Big Oil will not be constrained by the dangers of drilling in extreme environments, for now our only hope is that some form (even the slightest) of regulation be in place to lessen the possibility (or rather, inevitability) of another massive blowout.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released plans to for more stringent guidelines and more effective equipment to quickly stop the flow of oil, when - not if - another blowout occurs.

Salazar says a more effective BOP has always been the goal, after the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon failed to work due to an off-center drill pipe.

“That was one of the areas of intense focus during those days of the Gulf oil spill, when we were trying to figure out for so long what was happening with respect to the BOP,” Salazar said at an Interior Department forum on blowout preventers meant to help regulators developing the new mandates.

Salazar noted that one question that emerged during the oil spill response was whether the devices should be beefed up with a second set of shear rams to increase the odds of the BOP successfully slicing through drill pipe and debris to seal off a well. Another question, Salazar said, was whether there could be more “sensors and gauges” on the devices.

But all the sensors and gauges on the planet can't help, if the Big Oil powers that be ignore the information...

From the Dept. of Interior/BOEMRE investigation:

Some time between 5:17 p.m. and 5:27 p.m., Jimmy Harrell (Transocean), Robert Kaluza (BP), Donald Vidrine (BP) and other members of the drill crew discussed the first negative test. According to Kaluza, this discussion about the pressure on the drill pipe was “long.” Kaluza stated that Jason Anderson, Transocean assistant toolpusher, explained that the pressure was due to a “bladder effect,” and that “this happens every time.” Brian Morel, a BP drilling engineer who had previously raised concerns about Kaluza’s abilities to execute procedures, was not on the rig at the time (he had departed hours earlier) to be consulted on the drill pipe pressure and other anomalies.
Convinced of the necessity of doing something even if it is wrong, Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes says the Department guidelines will focus on four points:
     1.) BOPs need to be able to cut whatever is in their way and completely seal off the well.
     2.) We need better maintenance for BOPs, like what you would expect of a jet engine
          or any other very sophisticated mechanical device upon which lives depend.
     3.) BOPs need better sensors to tell us what is happening at the bottom of the sea.
     4.) Everyone working with BOPs should be thoroughly and properly trained to handle
          any contingency.
Well, Dave, we agree with you on your four points. How about a fifth point... something like, say....when the guys on the deck tell you (repeatedly) that the sucker is about to blow everything to hell and kingdom come, how about you LISTEN to them?
Roger McCarthy, a member of the National Academy of Engineering panel that probed the Deepwater Horizon disaster, said “the industry had plenty of warnings” that blowout preventers had problems shearing even under “benign conditions” before the 2010 oil spill.

A new blowout preventer rule should ensure the devices would at least have been able to halt the gushing oil and gas at Macondo, he said.

“We don’t want to fight the last war,” McCarthy said. “But let’s remember, we lost the last war. So, at a minimum, we should be able to anticipate with our current design recommendations and incorporate in them all the history we have paid so dearly for by not being prepared for the last disasters.”

A BOP has got to be powerful enough “to cut anything that’s in front of it when all hell is breaking loose,” McCarthy added. “And there is the tough part.”

Chuck Chauviere, general manager of drilling for GE Oil and Gas, said the industry is responding to the problems exposed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, by unveiling powerful new rams that are capable of cutting pipe under many different conditions. For instance, GE is touting rams that can cut through tool joints.

“The industry responds to forensic information that is given to us,” Chauviere said. “We are improving what the capabilities of the equipment are.”

But until that level of capability is reached, how about just not drilling where total catastrophe is the result of an equipment design failure, coupled with speed and sub-sub zero temperatures, and a mile-and-a-half of water?

Sorry...lost my head there for a minute. Not drill? Never happen...

BP has basically agreed to (this figure is actually an estimate) a $7.8 billion civil liability settlement from the Gulf spill. But there seem to be some secrets in the wording of the settlement, which could let BP off the hook for plaintiffs that decide to opt-out and leave the class-action phase and go it alone against the oil giant.

The problem is the opt-outs. At least it would be a problem for the plaintiffs, and not for BP. (So what else is new?)

The potential landmine is opt-outs. In a settlement of a class action, class members can reject the deal and decide to go it alone. Defendants have to be prepared for the possibility that a high volume of opt-out litigation will undermine the goal of global resolution. BP certainly is prepared: Its settlement agreement with plaintiffs claiming economic and property damages includes a provision that gives BP the right to terminate the deal if the total of opt-outs "exceeds a number agreed to by the parties."

So what's the number? That's the $7.8 billion question. The settlement agreement doesn't say. In fact, the document states that the opt-out number that could trigger a blowup is to be submitted to the court "in a sealed envelope."

It's not clear why BP is keeping the number secret. A spokesman for BP said that it was "part of the settlement negotiation process."

Others said they suspect there's more to it. Plaintiffs' lawyer Tony Buzbee of the Buzbee Law Firm, who is weighing whether to recommend the settlement to his clients, said BP may want the number kept under seal so that lawyers with lots of clients do not team up and threaten to opt out in an effort to extract a favorable deal. "They don't want a coalition of attorneys getting together saying we're not going to participate unless you treat us differently," said Buzbee, who added that he's never before encountered an opt-out provision with a secret trigger.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has granted preliminary approval to the settlement between BP and thousands of private plaintiffs, and has set a hearing date for November 8 for final approval, if he determines to grant such. Plaintiffs who are part of the class action have until August 31 to file objections to the settlement, with a date of October 1 to opt out.

Louisiana State University and others acquire funding to for mental health issues related to the Gulf spill.

$14.4 million grant issued to provide mental health services in BP spill affected areas.

LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans has been provisionally awarded a $14.4 million grant over five years from the $36 million in total funding through the BP Oil Spill Settlement Agreement to fund mental and behavioral health treatment and longer-term supportive services to people and communities affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Dr. Howard Osofsky, Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry, and Dr. Joy Osofsky, Professor and Head of the Division of Pediatric Mental Health at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, are the project leaders of the Mental and Behavioral Health Capacity Project in Louisiana.

The mental health project is one of the four projects that make up the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program developed by BP and counsel representing certain plaintiffs in the Deepwater Horizon litigation in the US District Court in New Orleans. Supervised by the court, the program is funded with $105 million from the BP Deepwater Horizon Medical Settlement. LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans helped to establish a coalition of collaborating partners in the four affected states including the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of South Alabama, the University of West Florida, Tulane University, and the Louisiana Public Health Institute dedicated to work together to implement the goals of the four integrated projects of the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program. The other three projects address primary care, environmental health and literacy, and training of community health workers.

Oh, well. Hope it helps. I would think everyone's mental health would be just fine if shrimpers and fishermen could depend on a good catch, decent physical health, and jobs for their children and grandchildren. But that's just me.

Alleged serial text deleter Kurt Mix feels restricted...

A federal magistrate has scheduled a hearing on a former BP engineer’s request for permission to travel freely throughout the U.S. while he awaits a trial on charges he deleted text messages about the oil company’s response to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. Magistrate Daniel Knowles III is set to hear arguments May 29 on Kurt Mix’s request.

Earlier this month, Knowles ordered Mix to limit his travel to Louisiana, Texas, Massachusetts and New York after a prosecutor claimed he had intended to leave the country for a job in Australia and wouldn’t return.

Mix’s attorneys argue the travel restrictions aren’t warranted because prosecutors haven’t shown he poses a flight risk.

Mix has pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice.

Alabama Press-Register op-ed calls for prosecution of BP executives.

Antonia Juhasz, in a special to the Press-Register says that BP executives should face criminal charges for the deaths of Gordon Jones, Dewey Revette, Jason Anderson, Shane Roshto, Stephen Curtis, Blair Manuel, Karl Kleppinger, Adam Weise, Don Clark, Roy Kemp and Aaron Dale Burkeen, all killed in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, and the US Justice Department should apply the charge of manslaughter at minimum.

Juhasz also cites Dr. David Uhlmann, former head of the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section, who argues in the Michigan Law Review for criminal charges against BP, including manslaughter. He cites Title 18 Section 1115 of the U.S. Criminal Code, known as the “Seaman’s Manslaughter Statute” which holds companies, executives, managers and employees of vessels liable for fines and imprisonment for deaths occurring on their rigs.

Jeanne Grasso of Blank Rome LLP, a maritime and environmental law expert, says that in applying the statute, “it is important to note that intent is not an element of the offense and it is unnecessary to show that the acts or omissions that caused the loss of life were willful or intentional.” Rather, she explains, simple negligence is enough to secure a conviction.

After two years and numerous critical investigations, the Joint Investigation Team of the U.S. Coast Guard and Interior Department concluded that BP, Transocean and Halliburton violated numerous federal laws that led to the disaster.

The team cites BP, for example, for failing “to protect health, safety, property and the environment by (1) performing all operations in a safe and workmanlike manner; and (2) maintaining all equipment and work areas in a safe condition.”

It cites BP, Transocean and Halliburton for “creating conditions that posed unreasonable risk to public health, life, property, aquatic life, wildlife, recreation, navigation, commercial fishing or other uses of the ocean.”

It also cites the companies for faulty well control, cement job (BP and Halliburton), integrity testing (BP) and maintenance of the critical blowout preventer (BP and Transocean).

As Dr. Uhlmann concludes, “BP has all but acknowledged its negligence — and has inculpated Transocean and Halliburton — in its internal investigation of the factors that caused the Gulf oil spill.”

I still want to see Tony H. forced to perp-walk off his yacht. I can dream, can't I?

And last, I submit a couple of items... Not going to do a story; just go and read and/or watch.

BP Coverup. They do it all the time.

The Big Fix...

Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:

5-08-12 04:00 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - BP Lied - Warning To Well Leader 1 Hour Before Blowout - BP Catastrophe AUV #587 peraspera
4-24-12 03:00 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - Criminal Charges and Angry Shrimp Processors - BP Catastrophe AUV #586 Lorinda Pike
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

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

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