| NEW ORLEANS
NEW ORLEANS Feb 26 BP Plc fostered a
culture that put cost-cutting over safety before the deadly 2010
Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a noted forensic engineer said in the
first day of testimony in the federal civil trial centered on
"There is ample evidence of intense pressure within the
system to save time and money," said Bob Bea, co-founder of the
Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at the University of
California, Berkeley. "With stress and pressure come sacrifices
Bea was the first witness for the plaintiffs, the U.S.
Justice Department and U.S. Gulf Coast states suing well owner
BP, rig owner Transocean Ltd and well cement provider
The plaintiffs plan to call Lamar McKay, chairman and
president of BP America, to testify as a hostile witness once
Bea wraps up. McKay is a member of the London-based oil
company's executive committee, alongside Chief Executive Officer
Bea consulted with the White House commission that
investigated the spill and prepared a report faulting BP for the
plaintiffs in the case. He also had consulted with BP on risk
management prior to 2005.
He said BP cut its Gulf of Mexico costs by 22 percent from
2008 to 2009 while increasing oil and gas output by 55 percent.
Bea said during questioning by Robert Cunningham, a lawyer
for the plaintiffs, that he had told BP that "money isn't
everything" and that incentives for major accident prevention
should be on equal footing with incentives for profits.
"It's a culture of every dollar counts," Bea said.
He had yet to be cross-examined by BP lawyer Mike Brock.
The April 2010 blowout caused an explosion that killed 11
men, sank a rig and spewed more than 4 million barrels of crude
oil into the Gulf.
Well-known in New Orleans, the site of the trial, Bea was a
key witness in litigation over failed levees when Hurricane
Katrina hit in 2005, flooding much of the city and leaving more
than 1,800 people dead.
The nonjury trial before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is
split into three phases, with the first focused on allocating
blame among the defendants and the severity of their negligence.