hide captionRep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), shown last month on Capitol Hill, says BP deserves to be under intense investigation. "If they were grossly negligent," he says, "they may well have been criminally negligent."
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), shown last month on Capitol Hill, says BP deserves to be under intense investigation. "If they were grossly negligent," he says, "they may well have been criminally negligent."
Congressional investigators released documents this week showing that BP took several shortcuts that may have led to the disastrous oil spill.
In one document, an engineer described the well as a "nightmare" just days before the April explosion.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says memos, e-mails and documents illustrate the risks BP took that led to the disaster.
"There were a number of occasions when they could have avoided what happened," he tells NPR's Michele Norris. "Instead, in each and every case, they took the path that was the least costly and fastest for them, therefore obviously more profitable, and that resulted in excessive risk."
He says the documents don't reveal who made the decisions, except in one "significant case," where Brett Cocales, one of BP's operations drilling engineers, sent an e-mail to a colleague that said that engineers had not taken all the usual steps to center the steel pipe in the drill hole.
"[W]ho cares, it's done, end of story, will probably be fine and we'll get a good cement job," he wrote.
Waxman says he's sure that when BP asked for permission from the Minerals Management Service to drill, "they had a plan that they were going to do it in a way that the industry accepted."
Instead, Waxman says, BP "cut corners."
"They didn't follow the proper procedures, they didn't have the well as safely constructed as possible, they didn't do some of the tests that they could have predicted they were going to have trouble," he says.
Waxman says BP deserves to be under intense investigation.
"If they were grossly negligent, they may well have been criminally negligent," he says. "And they certainly should be held responsible."
He says the government found in "five different cases almost clearly a pattern [that BP] ignored the things that they should have done."
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and wife Carole Rome Crist (right) stand with others during a Hands Across the Sand event June 26 in Pensacola, Fla. The event was staged across the nation to protest offshore oil drilling.
A shrimp boat skims oil from the surface of the water just off Orange Beach, Ala., as a family enjoys the surf. Oily tar balls have started washing up on Orange Beach and beaches in the western Florida panhandle.
President Obama walks alongside Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle (from right), U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is in charge of the federal response to the spill, and Chris Camardelle after meeting with local business owners in Grand Isle, La., June 4.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces that the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the BP oil spill. With him, from left: Stephanie Finley and Jim Letten, U.S. attorneys for the Western District of Louisiana; Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division; Tony West, assistant attorney general, Civil Division; and Don Burkhalter, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.
Residents listen to a discussion with parish officials and a BP representative on May 25 in Chalmette, La. Officials now say that it may be impossible to clean the hundreds of miles of coastal wetlands affected by the massive oil spill.
An oil-soaked pelican takes flight after Louisiana Fish and Wildlife employees tried to corral it on an island in Barataria Bay on the coast of Louisiana. The island, which is home to hundreds of brown pelican nests as well at terns, gulls and roseate spoonbills, is impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (center) and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser (right) tour the oil-impacted marsh of Pass a Loutre, La. "This is the heavy oil that everyone's been fearing that is here now," said Jindal.
BP Chairman and President Lamar McKay (left), with Transocean President and CEO Steven Newman (center) and Applied Science Associates Principal Deborah French McCay, testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing May 18 on response efforts to the Gulf Coast oil spill.
This undated frame grab image received from BP and provided by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee shows details of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has agreed to display a live video feed of the oil gusher on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee's website beginning Thursday evening.
Tendrils of oil mar the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in this satellite image taken Monday. An estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day are seeping into the Gulf, after an explosion last week on a drilling rig about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.
"We have to make sure they pay whatever the costs are involved in all of the damage that's resulted from their actions," he says. "And in the clean-up area, we're still waiting after more than a month for them to figure out how to cap this well.
"And the interesting thing is that all of the procedures that they are relying on now is part of what the whole industry is relying on. Each oil company had the same plan. Their plans to deal with the leak are all the same as BP's — we would hope with greater success, but that doesn't make you comfortable that they really know how to deal with the problem and they have a backup that's really going to work."