By TOM FOWLER
NEW ORLEANS -- An expert witness for plaintiffs suing BP
said the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident was "a classic failure
of management and leadership in BP," at the trial here in
Federal District Court over liability for the disaster.
Robert Bea, a University of California Berkeley engineering
professor who has worked as a safety consultant for BP starting
in 2001, said Tuesday that he sent many warnings to the
company's management in the years before the accident about how
cost-cutting would hurt the safety of operations.
"It was too lean," Mr. Bea said of BP's operations after it
The testimony came on the second day of the civil trial that
will determine the degree of culpability that BP and the other
companies have for the accident, which killed 11 workers.
On Monday, lawyers for BP, drilling contractors Transocean and
Halliburton, the federal government, Gulf Coast states and
local businesses traded barbs over who was to blame for the
explosion that unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in US
Mr. Bea also criticized BP's own internal investigation of
the Deepwater Horizon incident for failing to investigate
management decisions leading up to the accident. Instead, he
said, BP's study, known as The Bly Report, focused on the
direct cause of the explosion on the drilling rig and the role
that equipment and crew on the rig played.
During cross-examination, Mike Brock, a lawyer for BP, tried
to challenge the credibility of Mr. Bea's testimony,
emphasizing the limits of his expertise and emphasizing the
role the companies suing BP played in providing him information
for a report he did that was critical of BP's work leading up
to the blowout.
"You understood that the plaintiff's legal team was focused
on finding documents that hurt BP, not helped BP?" Mr. Brock
Mr. Bea said he and his colleagues "were searching for the
truth, the facts."
Mr. Brock also walked Mr. Bea through many efforts the
company and its management made over the years to improve its
safety operations, including surveying workers about safety
BP has argued that the accident was due to many errors and
misjudgments by all of the companies involved in the project, including rig owner
Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton.
Other witnesses expected soon include Lamar McKay, chairman
and president of BP Americas, and previously recorded
depositions of former BP CEO Tony Hayward and Kevin Lacy, the
former head of BP's Gulf of Mexico operations.
A second trial, scheduled for the fall, will determine how
much oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. Together, they will
determine the size of fines the companies face under the Clean
Water Act, which could total as much as $17.6 billion.
BP, which hired Transocean and Halliburton to work on
drilling its well, has said the fines would likely be under $5
Dow Jones Newswires