By Mandy Smithberger
One of the major findings of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was the need to cultivate "safety culture" in the oil and gas industry. The concern was also echoed by the Interior Department Inspector General and the Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement—and the American Petroleum Institute also acknowledged there was room for improvement. Arguably, the much-maligned safety bonuses issued to the Deepwater Horizon rig operator's CEOs in the face of the "performance" of the largest oil spill in U.S. history indicates that there's still work to do in developing that culture.
Theo Francis from footnoted discovers that bonuses are only one part of a larger picture indicating Transocean's deeper cultural problems resistant to accountability and improving safety practices. For one, he says, while Transocean did create a Health Safety and Environment Committee in August, the group only met once in 2010 (what's happened in 2011 seems to not be available yet). But then there's avoiding accountability:
Agenda Item 2 in the proxy is even more eye-opening. To hear the company tell it, the provision is an attempt to “discharge the members of the Board of Directors and our executive management from liability for their activities during fiscal year 2010,” explicitly including the rig explosion and oil spill. It would, Transocean says, not only prevent many shareholders from suing directors and officers entirely—whether by taking part in existing lawsuits or future ones—it would give other shareholders a narrow window of just six months to sue.
The government can't control what these companies do, nor should it, but it seems that the Interior Department's past practice of issuing safety awards (for many years) has not created awe-inspiring industry leadership when it comes to safety and the public interest.
Read more over at footnoted.
Mandy Smithberger is a POGO Investigator.