Tony Buzbee, the Texas lawyer suing BP on behalf of 15,000 Gulf Coast residents, hasn’t got a lot of time for the official report into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"It doesn’t have much effect on our case,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “Every investigating body has its own agenda. The only thing that really matters is what happens in court. I think the evidence clearly shows there was gross negligence.”
Despite his insistence that the lawyers are building strong cases against BP, analysts are increasingly convinced that the oil company won’t be the only one to shoulder all the blame. Even if BP is facing years of legal action and scrutiny, the entire industry is going to suffer as well.
In the official Oil Spill Commission report published on Tuesday, BP was singled out for “management failures” and accused of having a poor safety culture. With its share price up almost 3pc on Tuesday, investors appear to be breathing a sigh of relief that no more surprising allegations have emerged.
What concerns analysts now is the consequences for other oil companies, who have been squarely criticised for sharing lax standards.
Paul Sankey, managing director of Deutsche Bank’s oil equity research, said: “We think the level of activity is going to be by definition lower, and that you’ll never see the peak from before the accident. The broadness of these recommendations and lack of specifics will delay activity.”
The suggestion that the US should replace current regulators and industry groups has also caused concern. The American Petroleum Institute came in for particular criticism for being both a lobby group and watchdog in charge of equipment standards, but some asked whether a new “self-policing body” would do any better.
Al Troner, president of Asia Pacific Energy Consulting, said: “I believe that the crux of the problem is to have the current offshore drilling oversight bodies do their job, rather than adding more agencies. There is no guarantee that another government agency would do any better than its predecessors.”
More regulators, more research and more testing standards will cause delays to America’s offshore exploration – especially in new deepwater regions. The panel singles out the Arctic, where both BP and Shell want to drill, as a particular area of concern.
Advocacy groups such as Greenpeace are already seizing on the report as evidence that this new frontier exploration should be halted.
“This report rightly castigates an industry that habitually put cutting corners and saving money ahead of safety, and a regulator who was in bed with the oil firms,” Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace UK’s oil campaign, said on Tuesday.
However, the report’s scathing picture of oil companies is unlikely to be enough to halt drilling off the coast of Britain. The North Sea’s regime is held up in the US inquiry as a benchmark of good practice.
On Tuesday, experts warned against letting this make the UK complacent, especially since a committee of MPs found last week that Britain is not well prepared for a similar disaster.
“Poor judgment, dangerously sloppy procedures and cutting corners in this sector – or any other – is unacceptable and ultimately unsustainable,” said Neal Stone, director of policy at the British Safety Council. “The report published today is not easy reading. We have one of the toughest regulatory regimes in the world for deepwater drilling but we take it for granted at our peril.”
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
January 12, 2011