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Rep. Waxman: BP 'Could Have Avoided' Oil Disaster

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Rep. Waxman: BP 'Could Have Avoided' Oil Disaster

Politics

Rep. Waxman: BP 'Could Have Avoided' Oil Disaster

Rep. Waxman: BP 'Could Have Avoided' Oil Disaster

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/127861430/127863130" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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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." Evan Vucci/AP hide caption

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Evan Vucci/AP

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."

Evan Vucci/AP

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.

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"[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."

"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."