Oh, come now – even the Easter Bunny is political in Washington – but the American people are supposed to believe the Commission investigating BP’s gulf oil spill disaster is conducting a “non-political, independent” inquiry. According to today’s Sun Herald, the Commission was on a roll yesterday.
The commission came up with 13 preliminary temporary conclusions. Like BP, it found that the oil and gas traveled up the center of the pipe in the well, rather than up the sides — a finding that was disputed by Halliburton on Monday. The company has been criticized by the panel’s investigators for pumping faulty cement and having tests in hand that showed it would fail. If the blowout started in the space between the pipe and the underground rock, Halliburton’s cement would be less of a factor.
However, the Commission can’t roll over the evidence. Judge Barbier snatched prize eggs – the blown out blowout and, more recently, cement from the well – and put them in his basket.
Like kids who can’t find where the eggs are hidden, the Commission’s investigators testifying yesterday said, the ” BP oil rig explosion and spill wasn’t about anyone purposely trading money for safety…Instead it was more about seemingly acceptable risks adding up to disaster”:
Investigators at the commission’s hearing outlined more than a dozen decisions that at the time seemed questionable but also explainable. It was how those cascaded and crashed together that fueled catastrophe…
So far, the inquiry into the April 20 rig explosion — which killed 11 workers and dumped 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico — is echoing investigations into past technological disasters, such as space shuttle explosions. If there is one large problem, it is the way that all sorts of small decisions become a cascade of failures that short-circuit normal safety features. ..
So, almost a quarter century after the 1986 space shuttle explosion that killed all aboard the Challenger and almost killed the space program, someone has just figured out “a cascade of failures” lead to a disaster? Clearly, there were individuals who made decisions “knowingly ignoring” the decision would “short-circuit normal safety features”. Despite the obvious, those attending Monday’s meeting of the Commission were told:
…there was no evidence of a conscious decision on the BP rig to do things on the cheap at the expense of safety, investigators stressed several times. Likewise, representatives of the companies involved in the disaster denied that corners were cut because of cost.
Unconscious decisions are those made when shortcut thinking is the cognitive map. In other words, offer there is ample evidence shortcut thinking became the Government’s cognitive map. “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts” . Time is money in any industry, even moreso in one that counts money by the millions – and, the time required to solve a problem has become the symbol triggering a shortcut-thinking cognitive map. Behavioral science, in this case, trumps the claim of Fred H. Bartlit Jr., the commission’s chief attorney:
“Anytime you are talking about a million and a half dollars a day, money enters in. All I am saying is human beings did not sit there and sell safety down the river for dollars on the rig that night,” said commission chief attorney Fred H. Bartlit Jr.
Use of a shortcut-thinking cognitive map is more widespread than the culture of cost cutting at BP some hold accountable for the decisions leading to the disaster in the gulf:
Critics — including a top academic, a congressman and people on the temporarily polluted Bayou — are balking at what they see as something close to a free pass for BP’s history of cost cutting. In the first nonpolitical and independent investigation of the disaster, commission officials say they aren’t excusing BP at all, but pointing out there was no clear single decision that came down solely to money.
The commission often found itself agreeing with BP more than clashing, with members noting the company’s own investigation and saying they agreed about 90 percent of the time. That allowed more of the focus to shift to Halliburton…
Halliburton Co., which had the crucial job of cementing the well, was on the hotseat as much as BP on Monday, clashing more often with investigators than the oil company. And the commission still hasn’t dealt with the blowout preventer, a key instrument, because it is still being examined.
While “no written report was issued on Monday”, no decisions the commission reaches will have the impact of those made by Judge Barbier – and, nothing about Barbier’s record in the disaster known as Katrina suggests he’s inclined to believe in fictional characters like the Easter Bunny, much less take on the role of Santa.