- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 8, 2010

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In an internal report released Wednesday, oil giant BP PLC blamed itself, other companies’ workers and a complex series of failures for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the drilling rig explosion that preceded it.

The 193-page report was posted on the company’s website, even though investigators have yet to begin a full analysis of the blowout preventer, a key piece of equipment that should have cut off the flow of oil from the ruptured well but did not.

That means BP’s report is far from the definitive ruling on the blowout’s causes, but it may provide some hint of the company’s legal strategy — spreading the blame among itself, rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton — as it faces hundreds of lawsuits and possible criminal charges over the spill. Government investigators and congressional panels are looking into the cause as well.

“This report is not BP’s mea culpa,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, who is a frequent BP critic and a member of a congressional panel investigating the spill. “Of their own eight key findings, they only explicitly take responsibility for half of one. BP is happy to slice up blame, as long as they get the smallest piece.”

Robert Gordon, an attorney whose firm represents more than 1,000 fisherman, hotels, and restaurants affected by the spill, was more blunt.

BP blaming others for the Gulf oil disaster is like Bernie Madoff blaming his accountant,” he said.

Members of Congress, industry experts and workers who survived the rig explosion have accused BP’s engineers of cutting corners to save time and money on a project that was 43 days behind schedule and more than $20 million over budget at the time of the blast.

BP’s report acknowledged, as investigators previously have suggested, that its engineers and employees of Transocean misinterpreted a pressure test of the well’s integrity. It also blamed employees on the rig from both companies for failing to respond to warning signs that the well was in danger of blowing out.

Mark Bly, BP’s chief investigator, said at a briefing in Washington that the internal report was a reconstruction of what happened on the rig based on the company’s data and interviews with mostly BP employees and was not meant to focus on assigning blame. The six-person investigating panel had access only to a few workers from other companies, and samples of the actual cement used in the well were not released.

Outgoing BP chief Tony Hayward, who is being replaced Oct. 1 by American Bob Dudley, said in a statement that a bad cement job and a failure of a barrier at the bottom of the well let oil and gas leak out.

Transocean blasted BP’s report, calling it a self-serving attempt to conceal the real cause of the explosion, which it blamed on what it called “BP’s fatally flawed well design.”

“In both its design and construction, BP made a series of cost-saving decisions that increased risk — in some cases, severely,” Transocean said.

Halliburton said in a statement of its own that it found a number of omissions and inaccuracies in the report and is confident the work it completed on the well met BP’s specifications.

“Contractors do not specify well design or make decisions regarding testing procedures as that responsibility lies with the well owner,” the statement said

An AP analysis of the report shows that the words “blame” and “mistake” never appear. “Fault” shows up 20 times, but only once in the same sentence as the company’s name.

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