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Gulf oil spill: Transocean report continues the circular finger-pointing

Transocean Ltd., the Swiss company that owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, says the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that occurred last year is the result of successive decisions made by well owner BP. BP calls it "an advocacy piece" to support Transocean's "litigation strategy."

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In January, the National Oil Commission released a 398-page report that spread blame relatively equally among BP, Transocean, and Halliburton, the three leading players involved in the disaster. The report also recommended removal of the $75 million liability cap to cover economic damages, giving the government flexibility to impose fines that are expected to be in the billions of dollars.

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In a statement, BP said the Transocean report “fails to acknowledge the significance of Transocean’s role in the event” and said “on its face, it appears to be an advocacy piece, in which Transocean has cherry-picked the facts in support of its litigation strategy.” BP adds that the report needs to be read in the context of the presidential commission report and another by the US Coast Guard, both of which criticize Transocean for safety issues related to the disaster.

Halliburton also responded to the report, saying in a statement that, “deepwater operations are inherently complex and a number of contractors are involved which routinely make recommendations to a single point of contact, the well owner,” which is BP.

Local, state, and federal officials involved in the disaster are saying the report should be treated with a degree of suspicion considering the ongoing litigation and possible liability suits to come.

Chris Roberts, a council member of Jefferson Parish, an area in coastal Louisiana that suffered economic loss as a result of the oil spill, told the Associated Press that “obviously, there’s a monetary gain or loss depending upon what [Transocean] show their findings to be.”

US Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, a long-time critic of all three companies and a ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, issued a statement that called the report “the newest salvo in the continuing circular finger-pointing contest” among the major players involved.

When BP released its own report in September 2010 laying blame to both Transocean and Halliburton, both companies complained it was an attempt by the company to deflect responsibility. Transocean called the BP report “self-serving” and an attempt to conceal what it described as “BP’s fatally flawed well design.”

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