A Transocean Employee on the Deepwater Investigation?

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The Houston Chronicle‘s Fuel Fix posted an interesting piece late Tuesday night about a notable conflict of interest in the investigation into the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The paper cites documents that indicate that a supervisor from Transocean, the rig’s owner, has participated in tests on the blowout preventer—a key piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation.

According to the documents, the paper reports that “the Transocean employee has manipulated equipment on the 50-foot-tall, 300-ton blowout preventer, while a government contractor runs it through a battery of tests in New Orleans.” More from the article:

The government contracted the forensic analysis firm Det Norske Veritas to run the equipment through tests designed to shed light on why key pipe-cutting and hole-closing components failed to slash through drill pipe and seal off the well hole.

DNV later arranged for Owen McWhorter, onetime subsea supervisor on the Deepwater Horizon, to assist in the testing.

The government instructed DNV to terminate its contract with McWhorter after concerns were raised last week by the Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency also investigating the disaster.

The decision to use the Transocean employee as a consultant appeared to violate a conflict-of-interest provision in the government’s contract with DNV, acknowledged Michael Farber, a senior adviser for the ocean energy bureau, in a letter to the Chemical Safety Board.

Yikes. The piece says the government instructed DNV to remove McWhorter from the project after the conflict was pointed out. The tests they are conducting on the blowout preventer are crucial to figuring out what exactly went wrong on the Deepwater Horizon, since, as the name would imply, this device was supposed to prevent such a disaster from occurring. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the Coast Guard are investigating the causes of the disaster.

As Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) noted in a letter to BOEMRE head Michael Bromwich on Tuesday, the involvement of a Transocean staffer should raise “serious questions as to the credibility and objectivity” of the investigation.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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