BP Report An Exercise In Finger-Pointing

Local officials and congressional investigators said BP was shirking responsibility by passing the blame in its internal report of the oil rig explosion in the Gulf. And companies that BP pointed a finger at were quick to point a finger back.

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BPs internal investigation was not met with enthusiasm on Capitol Hill or on the Gulf Coast.

As NPRs Debbie Elliott reports, some say it smacks more of finger-pointing than internal scrutiny.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: The first line in BPs press release this morning read, quote, no single factor caused the Macondo well tragedy. Orange Beach, Alabama Mayor Tony Kennon doesnt agree.

Mr. TONY KENNON (Mayor, Orange Beach, Alabama): They can say there was no single failure, but there was a single failure. The single failure was a lack of leadership and management on BPs part.

ELLIOTT: Kennon says the well and the subcontractors were all under BPs control.

Mr. KENNON: The thing that bothers me is theyre throwing out excuses and there is no excuse. They had no apparatus, no mechanism in place to deal with a catastrophic event and that is absolutely unacceptable and utterly ridiculous.

ELLIOTT: In Washington, congressional investigators also think BP is shirking responsibility. Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey is on a House committee looking into the cause of the spill. He says, quote, BP is happy to slice up blame as long as they get the smallest piece.

BP did name other companies involved in the well. Today those contractors were quick to point the finger back. Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, called BPs report, quote, a self-serving attempt to hide the real cause of the explosion. And Transocean says the real cause is BPs fatally flawed well design. Halliburton said it was confident its cement work met BPs specifications.

Its not surprising to see the companies trying to parse out blame like that, says Tampa attorney Steve Yerrid, special counsel on the oil spill to Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

Mr. STEVE YERRID (Attorney): Now the real format of what their defense is going to be is emerging. That is, it wasnt us, which is an untenable defense. Okay, well, maybe it was us, but only partially. Look at the other wrongdoers.

ELLIOTT: Yerrid says the document today makes clear that BP does not intend to be solely liable for the damages that result from the explosion and oil spill, but will be looking to others to share that burden.

Courts will determine some of that, but so will the government. Today, the top federal official overseeing the spill, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, said BPs internal investigation is hardly the last word.

Admiral THAD ALLEN (U.S. Coast Guard): I think it is a piece of information that adds to our understanding of it, but its not the end all, be all of whats going to have to be done in this - to address the issues associated with this - why it happened and what needs to happen in the future.

ELLIOTT: Allen points to a number of other probes now underway by Congress, the Justice Department, the Interior Department and the Department of Homeland Security. President Obama has also created his own commission to determine what happened and make recommendations to prevent it from ever happening again.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Orange Beach, Alabama.

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