By The Associated Press - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 0 Comments
NEW ORLEANS – Now that a $4 billion plea deal has resolved BP’s criminal…
NEW ORLEANS – Now that a $4 billion plea deal has resolved BP’s criminal liability for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill nearly three years ago, the company will turn its focus to a trial that could potentially cost it billions of dollars more in civil penalties.
At the conclusion of a hearing Tuesday that included emotional testimony and a BP executive’s apology, a federal judge agreed to let the London-based oil giant plead guilty to manslaughter charges for the April 2010 deaths of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig and pay the record amount of criminal penalties.
What the plea deal approved by U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance doesn’t resolve, though, is the federal government’s civil claims against BP.
A trial scheduled to start Feb. 25 is designed to identify the causes of BP’s well blowout, which triggered the deadly rig explosion and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. The first phase of the trial also is designed to assign percentages of blame to BP and its partners in the ill-fated drilling project.
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 3:01 PM - 0 Comments
NEW ORLEANS – A federal judge on Tuesday approved an agreement for BP PLC…
NEW ORLEANS – A federal judge on Tuesday approved an agreement for BP PLC to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the company’s role in the 2010 rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance said the plea deal was “just punishment” considering the alternatives to the settlement, including the risk that a trial could result in a lower fine for BP.
Before she ruled, Vance heard emotional testimony from relatives of 11 workers who died when BP’s blown-out Macondo well triggered an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and started the spill.
“I’ve heard and I truly understand your feelings and the losses you suffered,” she said.
By The Associated Press - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 5:51 AM - 0 Comments
NEW ORLEANS – Businesses and individuals who claim BP’s oil spill in the Gulf…
NEW ORLEANS – Businesses and individuals who claim BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost them money have been paid more than $1 billion through the company’s class-action settlement with a team of private plaintiffs’ attorneys, court-supervised claims administrator Patrick Juneau said.
Juneau said the payments reached the $1 billion mark before the end of 2012. He also said 95 per cent of claimants who were offered payments decided to accept them.
“I feel this high rate of acceptance reflects the fairness of the settlement amounts as well as the fairness of the claims process,” Juneau said in a statement.
The court-supervised claims process was established in June 2012. It replaced the Gulf Coast Claims Facility led by Kenneth Feinberg. Juneau said an additional $404 million in claims were paid during the transition from the GCCF to his program.
By The Associated Press - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM - 0 Comments
NEW ORLEANS – Two BP rig supervisors and a former BP executive pleaded not…
NEW ORLEANS – Two BP rig supervisors and a former BP executive pleaded not guilty Wednesday to criminal charges stemming from the deadly Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and the company’s response to the massive 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, along with former BP vice-president of exploration for the Gulf David Rainey, remained free on bond following their arraignments in federal court.
Kaluza and Vidrine are charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 rig workers. They are accused of disregarding abnormally high pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble just before the blowout of BP’s Macondo well.
Rainey was charged separately with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was leaking from the well. Millions of gallons of crude oil spewed from BP’s well for months.
Kaluza professed his innocence on his way into court, making his first public comments since the April 2010 explosion that killed his co-workers.
“I think about the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon every day,” Kaluza told reporters. “But I did not cause this tragedy. I am innocent and I put my trust, reputation and future in the hands of the judge and the jury.”
Kaluza and Vidrine’s lawyers both accused the Justice Department of using their clients as scapegoats. They noted that other government investigations have spread out the blame for the disaster and concluded it was the product of a complex series of mistakes, made both onshore and on the rig.
“Bob and Don did their jobs,” said Shaun Clarke, one of Kaluza’s attorneys. “They did them correctly and they did them in accordance with their training.”
Robert Habans, one of Vidrine’s lawyers, said his client diligently followed instructions he received from engineers and others onshore.
“He’s not the architect or the engineer. He didn’t design the well, and he didn’t make the critical decisions in this case,” Habans said.
The case against Kaluza and Vidrine centres on their roles in supervising “negative testing,” which is designed to assess whether a cement barrier is effectively preventing oil or gas from flowing up the well. The indictment says they had “multiple indications” from the negative testing that the well wasn’t secure. Yet they allegedly failed to alert onshore engineers about the problems during the testing, accepted a “nonsensical explanation” for abnormal pressure readings and eventually decided to stop investigating.
Habans, however, said court records related to civil litigation over the spill indicate Vidrine did discuss the test results with an onshore engineer less than an hour before the blast. A Justice Department attorney questioned a BP expert about the phone conversation between Vidrine and the engineer, Mark Hafle.
“It’s almost inconceivable to me that the government in the indictment makes a contrary allegation,” Habans said.
But the indictment appears to fault Kaluza and Vidrine for failing to phone engineers on shore earlier that day while the tests were being performed.
Lawyers for Rainey declined to comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman also declined to comment.
A trial for Kaluza and Vidrine is scheduled to start on Feb. 4, while Rainey has a Jan. 28 trial date. Both dates could be postponed given the complexity of the cases.
BP announced earlier this month that it will plead guilty to manslaughter, obstruction of Congress and other charges and pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties to resolve a Justice Department probe of the disaster.
Attorneys for BP and the Justice Department are scheduled to meet Dec. 11 with a federal judge to discuss a date for the company to plead guilty.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig, owned by Transocean Ltd. but operated on behalf of BP, was drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010, when it was rocked by an explosion. The bodies of 11 workers were never recovered.
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
Quit: Steven Slater
In 2010, no one cheered the hearts of disgruntled workers everywhere more than Jet Blue flight attendant Slater, who left his job—and his aircraft—in spectacular fashion. In August, he told off an annoying passenger, grabbed two bottles of beer, released the emergency exit on his landed plane, and slid away to freedom. And into a world of trouble: in October, he pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and was fined US$10,000. For the rest of us, though, it was worth it.
Evicted: the Niqab
After a pharmacist in a niqab—a face veil that reveals only the wearer’s eyes—refused to remove it during French-language class, the Quebec government announced plans to ban government agencies and public institutions from offering services to veiled women. Bill 94, when it becomes law, will effectively eject the niqab from Quebec’s public square in the name of gender equality and maintaining secular values in public services. Meanwhile, the imposing crucifix in the national assembly remains in place.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
Canadian birds are about to fly south for the winter, thousands won’t be returning
Canadian birds are about to fly south for the winter, but thanks to the oil slick contaminating their temporary home along the Gulf of Mexico, thousands won’t be returning.
Although oil has stopped leaking from BP’s underwater Gulf pipeline, more than 1,000 km of coast and almost 20,000 acres of inland marsh have been contaminated with toxic hydrocarbons, and those numbers are expected to increase as hurricane season churns up submerged crude and spreads the greasy sheen covering wetlands. It’s a mess that’s already decimated local wildlife populations, and is now lying in wait for tens of millions of unwitting Canadian ducks, geese and other birds—including endangered white pelicans and piping plovers.
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 9:08 AM - 27 Comments
The U.S. government and BP are rushing to put the Gulf spill behind them—but it’s not over yet
It only took a few weeks for Jim Cowan to discover there was more to BP’s massive Macondo oil spill than meets the eye. He was part of a team of scientists that took to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico shortly after an April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers and caused the US$350-million drill rig to sink. As oil gushed uncontrollably from the damaged well 5,000 feet below, Cowan and his colleagues plied the waves until they came across a telltale sheen. They dropped their remotely operated submersible beneath the slick and confirmed their fears—a giant moving cloud of oil droplets, later dubbed a “plume.”
The discovery challenged the all-oil-rises-to-the-surface belief that had been guiding the cleanup and containment efforts. And it was met with resistance from both BP and the U.S. government, which had given the oil giant permission to spray an unprecedented amount of chemical dispersants on the surface and, unusually, at the source of the leak. “We took a lot of heat,” says Cowan, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University. “There was a great deal of denial.”
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 9:35 AM - 0 Comments
From the courts to Capitol Hill, America is turning on Alberta oil
Karl Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The April 20 explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico was certainly an epic tragedy, from the all-but-forgotten deaths of 11 workers on the platform to the eventual fall of CEO Tony Hayward—a man handpicked for the job when his mentor John Browne succumbed to the political after-effects of a refinery explosion. By comparison, the July 26 rupture of line 6B in Enbridge’s Lakehead pipeline system seems a trivial matter. The total volume of crude oil dumped into the Michigan countryside before isolation valves closed the pipe is estimated by Calgary-based Enbridge at 19,500 barrels—somewhere between seven and 13 hours worth of flow from the Horizon wellhead.
By macleans.ca - Friday, August 6, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Carla Bruni’s very tough act, Ahmadinejad vs. Paul the Octopus, and an extreme breed of couch surfer
Silvio Berlusconi’s very bad week
Italy’s PM is on thin ice after a party revolt led by long-time ally Gianfranco Fini, and now come fresh allegations of scandal. “In the bed there was me, two girls from Rome, and Berlusconi,” Maria Teresa De Nicolo, an escort, told prosecutors in a corruption inquiry, according to the daily La Repubblica. Could it end with a snap fall election?
The camera doesn’t lie
France’s stunning first lady should be used to the lure of cameras. And yet, during filming for Woody Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris, in which Carla Bruni plays a bit part as a museum curator, the former model and pop songstress couldn’t nail the simplest of scenes. Bruni needed a whopping 35 takes to film a dialogue-free scene that required her to walk in and out of a grocery store, clutching a baguette. In fairness, it had probably been a while since she’d done her own groceries.
One moment Gregor Robertson was Vancouver’s clean, green mayor; the next he was a scofflaw on wheels. The avid cyclist—he’s pumping $25 million into new bike infrastructure in Vancouver—was caught blowing a red light on his bike on July 22. He didn’t even slow down to check for traffic, bus driver Michele MacDonald told the Vancouver Province, after nearly flattening him. Only a quick, hard stomp on the brakes saved him, she said. “When he looked up and said he was sorry, I thought ‘Oh my God: it’s Mr. Gregor Robertson.’ ” The near miss was a “good lesson—and a reminder to everyone to use caution and follow the rules when out on the road,” said Robertson, whose poster-boy image took an another drubbing earlier this summer when a mike was accidentally left on at a council meeting, revealing a raunchier, more partisan, F-bomb-dropping mayor.
And he knows from silly
Long after the World Cup, the fallout continues. Argentina’s soccer association has dropped superstar Diego Maradona as coach of the national team, after it was sent packing in the quarter finals in a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Germany. Maradona was greeted by cheering fans on his return from South Africa and President Cristina Fernandez urged him to stay on, but the soccer association concluded his best days were behind him. Meantime, Paul the psychic octopus was roasted by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The eight-legged sea creature (no risk of a hand ball there) is credited with predicting the outcome of all seven German World Cup matches—a silly bit of decadent Western nonsense and superstition, Ahmadinejad thundered in a recent speech in Tehran. “Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection,” he said.
The Mel Gibson of the left?
It’s one thing to blame Adolf Hitler for the Holocaust, Oliver Stone said in an interview last month, but whom do we blame for Hitler? “German industrialists, the Americans and the British,” the film director told the Sunday Times of London. “He had a lot of support. Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people.” Stone went on to lament “the Jewish domination of the media” and the way Israel has distorted U.S. foreign policy “for years.” He did apologize, calling his comments “glib” and “clumsy,” adding “Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry.”
Now comes the tough part
“From strippers to ministers,” blared the Russian headline that propelled Georgia’s new economy minister, Vera Kobalia, to the heart of an international scandal. Russian media—who love a chance to needle Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and seldom let the facts get in the way—based the accusation on a racy Facebook photo of Kobalia in what they call a Vancouver strip club, but turned out to be a nightclub. Kobalia grew up in B.C.; she met Saakashvili at the Vancouver Olympics, is all of 28, and has no political experience. It’s not the only challenge she’ll face in her new job: running an economy that shrank a whopping seven per cent last year.
It’s a black thing, and I understand
In a big week for racial politics in America, Essence, the bible of black fashion, caused a sensation for hiring Ellianna Placas, a white woman, as fashion director. “It’s a dark day,” said former editor Michaela Angela Davis, who noted the industry has long been a tough place for black women. Not everyone objected. “Kudos—for having the . . . courage to elevate a qualified and talented white woman, in a time of such racial tension,” said Sophia Nelson, a black lawyer. Andrew Breitbart, ever mindful of reverse racism, could perhaps get behind it too. The conservative activist, who posted a video clip edited to make fired black civil servant Shirley Sherrod look like a racist, will “definitely” be sued, Sherrod declared last week. Breitbart reacted to the news saying, “As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difﬁcult for me as well.”
They get around
Utah’s predominantly Mormon Brigham Young University has added a new prohibition to its long list: no motorized couches. Students Nick Homer and Stewart Clyde spent months combining an old couch with a motorized wheelchair as a comfy means of transportation around campus. It was a sensation, until administrators instituted a law banning couch-based transportation systems. When campus police pulled them over, Homer says, they “basically congratulated us on being awesome.” Yes, if awesomeness is a crime, Neil Rideout of New Waterford, N.S., must also plead guilty. He was stopped by cops last week while driving his motorized drink cooler to a convenience store. He was fined $222 for driving on the sidewalk after police said the street was off-limits. The cooler, in addition to being cool, has jacks for an MP3 player, a 5.5 hp motor, a radio and, naturally, cup holders.
Spoken like a Lady
When you’re Lady Gaga, it must be hell deciding what to wear. So, for her cover shoot for September’s Vanity Fair, she threw in the towel, and every other bit of clothing, save for a floral tattoo and a tasteful choker necklace. Art is a cruel taskmaster, she said in an interview; she’s perpetually lonely, even in relationships. Of course that may also have something to do with celibacy. “I have this weird thing that if I sleep with someone they’re going to take my creativity from me through my vagina.” She credits her mom and grandmother with getting her mostly free of drugs, but for the occasional toot of cocaine. If the Lady is overexposed now, wait until the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 12. She has a record-breaking 13 nominations. God put her on Earth for three reasons, she says: “To make loud music, gay videos, and cause a damn raucous [sic].”
Careful what you wish for
It’s gotten so one almost feels sorry for Tony Hayward, the ousted CEO of BP—almost. It’s now clear that Hayward, recently replaced by Bob Dudley, failed miserably at containing the public-relations fallout from BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—smug and indifferent before Congress, appearing at a yacht race in England and telling reporters he “wanted his life back”—but he may have done as well as could be expected when it came to stopping the leak from the Deepwater Horizon rig. “I understand that people find it easier to vilify an individual more than a company,” the career oilman recently told the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps. But CEOs are paid big bucks to take responsibility during times of crisis and expected to know when they’re in over their heads. Or at least when to hire image consultants.
Spreading the good word
Asked how he’ll protect constituents from the Muslim “threat,” Tennessee gubernatorial hopeful Ron Ramsey questioned whether religious freedoms should even apply to Islam. It’s arguable, he told a Chattanooga crowd, if the world’s second-largest religion is actually a religion—or “a nationality, a way of life, cult.” In nearby Florida, pastor Terry Jones announced plans for “International Burn a Quran Day,” on the anniversary of Sept. 11. His church, the Dove World Outreach Center, will host.
It’s what Uncle Earl would want
A man peddling Ansel Adams photos purchased at a Fresno, Calif., garage sale may in fact be selling pictures taken by 87-year-old Oakland resident Miriam Walton’s Uncle Earl. When Richard Norsigian announced experts had authenticated the negatives he bought for $45 and valued them at US$200 million, Walton recognized a photo of the famous Jeffrey Pine at Yosemite National Park from the news footage. “I keep thinking that perhaps that box of negatives belongs to Uncle Earl,” she told a local TV station. Undeterred, Norsigian is selling copies at a hefty markup: $7,500 for darkroom prints, $1,500 for digital reproductions.
A bit too N-Sync
Rumours dogged punk singer Plastic Bertrand for decades that the voice on his 1977 hit Ça plane pour moi isn’t his, but producer Lou Deprijck’s. Late last month, the singer (real name Roger Jouret) admitted the ruse to a newspaper after a linguistics expert told a Belgian court the vocals are indeed Deprijck’s. Plastic says he was promised a small share of the rights to the song if he agreed to “keep his mouth shut.” According to Deprijck, the reasoning for the Milli Vanilli-esque bait-and-switch was simple marketing. “I was even prepared to shave my moustache,” he told the Guardian, “but the record label preferred this guy with his punk look.”
By Joseph Boyden, Amanda Boyden and David Parker Jr. - Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 39 Comments
Joseph and Amanda Boyden report from the front lines
We walk on the sands of Pensacola Beach tonight. We’ve strolled here before, in the past, but it’s different now. Really different. The sky has turned from lavender to purple to black, and what we see comes straight from a science fiction movie. Our darkest imaginings of some mishandled future have sprung to life. For stretches longer than football fields, dozens of white-skinned, red-eyed aliens plod like zombies across the beach where the water meets the sand.
And then we see: the white-skinned aliens are really hazmat-clad humans wearing single infrared lights affixed to their heads. They shuffle and bend in teams of two, one holding a plastic bag while the other digs at black gelatinous blobs in the white sand. They wear white masks, and the waxing moon lists in the sky. Suddenly understanding that the beings are human is no less frightening.