Is the British Company to Blame or Was it These Americans?

Wow. Over on Gizmodo.com, a piece on the parody film by UCB Comedy drew a comment from a Brit which, if it is accurate, should cause us to rethink in large part our reaction to the Gulf Oil Disaster of 2010. The writer claims that the real blame for the accident and the resulting crisis belongs to two American companies, Transocean and Cameron. Among his key points:

  • "The American press initially referred to the accident in terms of it being Transocean’s rig, and only switched to using BP’s name when the extent of the oil spill became apparent." (This one we know is true.)
  • "Survivors of the rig fire have claimed they were held incommunicado by Transocean heavies and lawyers on a boat until they signed forms absolving Transocean of any blame or causing any harm. They weren’t even allowed to let their families know they were alive until they signed that form." (Stories on this point are mixed. At least two survivors have told stories that support this allegation while Transocean has publicly denied any such behavior.)
  • "[C]onsider American responsibilities and actions regarding the Union Carbide disaster at Bhopal, India. In the first decade after the cyanide gas was released, 25,000 deaths were attributed to the accident and 300,000 were made sick and/or homeless. That was in 1984 and today most of the victims are still waiting for compensation or even a meaningful apology." (Undeniably true but only tangentially relevant.)

He makes several other interesting observations in the process.

Now, I'm not endorsing his position. But if they are true, they should at least give us pause to rethink the assessment of blame and liability here. It does not appear to me that TO is blameless (and may even deserve the major burden) and its executives have behaved every bit as badly as Tony Hayward of BP by all accounts. But of course ultimately, contracts between and among the various players govern the outcome and I have to believe BP has accepted responsibility because it is legally obligated to do so under those contracts.

Still, TO ought to get slammed if half of this guy's allegations are valid.

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