As the BP trial enters the second day, the first witness called was Robert Bea, a University of California-Berkeley professor who was consulted by the White House commission that investigated the Deepwater Horizon explosion and blowout. He is a professor emeritus in civil and environmental engineering, is co-founder of the Center For Catastrophic Risk Management, and a former engineer at Shell Oil.
Bea was also a paid consultant for BP. He testified how he warned BP several times over the years to improve its safety procedures and culture, but those warnings - and even BP's own protocols - were subsequently ignored in the time leading up to the blowout.
Bea said during the second day of the spill’s civil trial that he would characterize BP’s failures in overseeing the Macondo well project as “tragic, egregious.”In his testimony, Bea said cost-cutting was always at play for BP, illustrated with a 2009 email from engineer John Guide bragging that they "saved BP millions, and no one had to tell us". Bea said that profit was the central motive, with little regard to safety, and that the mindset of “every dollar matters” was at work at all times prior to the explosion.
“It’s a classic failure of management and leadership in BP,” Bea testified.
Bea said he had warned BP to look for problems.
“I called it being afraid,” he said. He later added, “Unfortunately, the message apparently didn’t get through.”
In 2007, concerned his message wasn’t getting through, Bea said he told BP, “You still don’t get it. You have not implemented my recommendations. Process safety is deadly serious, and you’ve turned it into a traveling roadshow.”One of his reports, dated in August of 2011, was admitted into evidence before Bea began his testimony.
On cross examination, BP lawyer Robert C. “Mike” Brock tried to show inconsistencies between Bea’s deposition in the civil case and his testimony at the trial. The exchanges between the two were combative at times.Bea took the stand at 8AM, with cross beginning around 11AM. After recess, Judge Barbier reconvened the court, but stated that Bea had been on the stand a long time, and both sides should try to move the proceedings along.
Bea acknowledged there were some people at BP prior to Gulf disaster that he would give high marks for safety mindedness. He also said BP took a positive safety step before the disaster when its board of directors set up a safety committee.
Brock also tried to chip away at Bea’s testimony about BP’s cost-cutting mentality before the oil spill.
“Treat the money like it’s your own. That’s a good message to send, isn’t it?” Brock asked.
“Yes,” Bea responded.
Brock also got Bea to acknowledge that he is not an expert in how to drill deepwater wells and cement.
But, on the whole, Bea stood his ground on his belief that BP largely paid lip service to safety before the Gulf disaster and then dropped the ball at the most critical time.
“Statements from the top are important for the talk, but they have to be backed up by the walk,” Bea said.
Brock continued to pound the idea that cost savings and safety could coexist, citing a BP document showing that safety was a "boundary condition" on any cost savings, and that BP was about "continuous improvement" and not about compromising safety.
Bea's testimony ended around 4:15, and BP America president Lamar McKay then took the stand. McKay was the lead representative for BP in the US at the time of the spill, and a petroleum engineer by training.
Testimony from McKay should be interesting, as he is the highest-raking official yet to take the stand, and (from reading tweets from reporters in the courtroom) is more than a trifle combative under questioning, refusing to concede points already established in past testimony and affidavits from BP itself.
It will also be interesting to see how far into the evening that Judge Barbier will continue the proceedings, as McKay was initially thought to not be on the stand until tomorrow.
So stay tuned, if you're at all interested...there's more to come, either in this diary as an update if anything momentous happens - or if nothing does, tomorrow in a recap.
So far... general consensus by lawyers for the Gulf Coast states late yesterday after the first day of the proceedings was that BP came out looking a bit less than good.
"It was a good day for the plaintiffs and a bad day for BP - and tomorrow is going to be worse for them," said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.Don't get too complacent, guys, it's way too early...
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said there were no surprises in the trial's opening statements and that he found the day to be "enlightening."
"I was interested to hear their position, in light of the evidence they intend to put one," Caldwell said shortly after Judge Carl Barbier adjourned court for the day