BP & The U.S. Govt. Held Info Back From Each Other As Oil Poured Into Gulf

It’s like a scene on some crime show where the crook gets away because the local cops and the FBI aren’t telling each other everything. Except this wasn’t some hour-long piece of TV fluff; it was a huge environmental disaster that unleashed untold amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Houston Chronicle’s FuelFix blog has a revealing story about recent closed-door testimony to the Justice Dept. by Marcia McNutt, head of the U.S. Geological Survey, regarding deception and secret-keeping on the part of BP and the U.S. government following the 2010 explosion and oil spill in the gulf.

“I didn’t feel a partnership, you know, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to solve the flow rate problem. Let’s sit down and put the best minds from BP and the best minds of government and work this out,’?” testified McNutt.

When McNutt, who had headed up the team charged with figuring out exactly how much oil was being released into the water each day, was asked if BP had told her that back the capping stack device that would ultimately close the leak was ready to be installed in May 2010, months before it was eventually used, she said she was not aware.

“Would that be the type of information that the government would have wanted to know?” the lawyer asked.

Replied McNutt, “All information is good information. McNutt responded.

FuelFix also obtained court documents showing that BP’s internal estimate of the leak was 30,000 barrels of oil/day in May 2010 (with some estimates as high as 100,000 barrels/day), while it was telling the public and the government that it only estimated around 5,000 barrels.

“They did not articulate anything differently to me,” said McNutt in her testimony to the DOJ. “It seems to me, from the documents you’ve showed me, that they may have believed differently, privately.”

But McNutt’s team was also not exactly transparent about sharing its flow-rate information with BP.

In e-mails to an oceanographer advising the White House on the spill, McNutt confirmed that BP was not being copied on messages regarding flow rate analysis.

She testified that the reason for holding back this information from BP was to not “confuse the issue.”

As regular readers of Consumerist remember, the Gulf of Mexico spill — along with a history of fatal incidents at a number of its other facilities — were ultimately what gave BP the edge to beat out Bank of America for Worst Company In America 2011.