Halliburton 'destroyed' evidence after Gulf oil spill, BP charges
BP alleges that Halliburton, a subcontractor working on the Deepwater Horizon rig, destroyed evidence pertaining to what might have caused the explosion that triggered the Gulf oil spill.
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“Halliburton's role is at once the most limited – it was only doing a small piece of the job – but is also critical to the blowout that occurred,” says David Uhlmann, former chief of the Justice Department's environmental crimes unit and now a law professor at the University of Michigan.Skip to next paragraph
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Aside from civil liability questions, the bigger worry for Halliburton, he says, is that BP's allegations, if substantiated in court, raise the possibility of criminal charges. “If evidence is destroyed in the aftermath of the nation's worst environmental disaster … that only increases the likelihood that they would face criminal charges and may also mean that they face additional obstruction of justice charges from the Justice Department,” says Mr. Uhlmann.
Halliburton, for its part, said Monday it disagrees with BP's assertion and will rebut the allegations in court. BP's filing is an attempt to “incorrectly attribute operation decisions to Halliburton,” the company told CNN on Monday.
"Every contributing cause where Halliburton is named, the operational responsibility lies solely with BP. Halliburton remains confident that all the work we performed with respect to the ... well was completed in accordance with BP's specifications for its well construction plan and instructions," Zelma Branch, a Halliburton spokeswoman, told CNN.
BP has gained some ground on its contention that Halliburton and Transocean share legal responsibility for the spill. In October, the US government found liability with BP, Transocean, and Halliburton, citing all three companies for violating oil industry regulations – a move expected to result in massive fines for a deadly spill that soiled hundreds of miles of Gulf coastline and temporarily devastated the region's fishing and tourism industries.
In its final report in January, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling said a "root cause" of the explosion was "insufficient controls in place" at Halliburton to ensure that "test results were vetted rigorously."
"On the cement, they did the test, but they didn't communicate the result of that test," commission member Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The New York Times in January. "There were some real communication gaps, a lot of management errors, a lot of lack of information offshore and onshore, and among contractors."
IN PICTURES: Destructive oil spills