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Blowout Investigation Compromised

An investigation into the failure of the blowout preventer (BOP) from the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010 may have been compromised due to a conflict of interest between the investigating firm and employees of companies involved in the incident.

Doubt is being raised because a Transocean Ltd. employee was allowed to manipulate some of the equipment on the BOP during the investigation. Transocean is the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, the oil rig involved in the disastrous Gulf coast oil spill which is under investigation. British Petroleum (BP) was leasing the oil rig from Transocean at the time of the disaster.

Det Norske Veritas, a forensic analysis firm, was hired by the government to conduct equipment tests on the BOP and investigate why it failed. The Transocean employee was hired as a consultant by Det Norske Veritas and now the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has complained about this because it views the relationship as a conflict of interest.

The Chemical Safety Board called the action by the Transocean employee a “manipulation” and wants the employee either to be terminated or at least to be supervised by a neutral third party during the investigation.

The 300-ton BOP was manufactured by Cameron International.

The focus of the investigation is to discover why the BOP failed to cut through the pipe and seal off the the well hole to prevent oil from gushing out. Legal experts say that an analysis of the BOP can shed light on why it failed back in April, 2010.

When news of the complaint by the Chemical Safety Board reached the head of the House subcommittee looking into the the disaster, Rep. Ed Markey, he immediately sent a letter to the Obama administration and asked them to take action.

Rep. Markey, Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, posted his letter to the Safety Board on his website along with other documents that include photos of the test area. The photos show the Transocean employee working on equipment and manipulating a blowout preventer pipe.

The Department of The Interior and the U.S. Coast Guard are involved in the investigation. BOP is now sitting on a barge under tight security in New Orleans.

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