BP sees no 'gross negligence' in Gulf oil spill: new chief

30th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

BP does not expect the US Justice Department to accuse it of "gross negligence" at the conclusion of its investigation into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, incoming chief executive Bob Dudley said Friday.

A finding of gross negligence would dramatically increase the fines assessed due to the spill and could open BP up to criminal charges and more substantial civil liabilities.

Dudley acknowledged that the investigation into the worst environmental disaster in US history has only just begun after it took nearly five months to fully "kill" the runaway well off the coast of Louisiana.

"We don't believe we have been grossly negligent in anything we've seen in any of the investigations," Dudley told the Houston Chronicle, adding that BP has not yet entered settlement discussing with the government.

Dudley, who announced a powerful new safety division and overhauled BP's structure on Wednesday, said the move was not an admission of a previously weak safety culture.

BP will also conduct an assessment of how it motivates its staff in trying to improve safety and risk management, and will review how it manages third-party contractors.

"I wouldn't describe it as an admission of anything," Dudley said in an interview posted on the newspaper's website.

"But just looking at the gravity of what happened, we must do everything we can to ensure that it never happens again.

The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was triggered by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig -- leased by BP and operated by Transocean Energy -- that killed 11 workers on April 20.

The broken well was eventually plugged but not before it gushed about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, the largest maritime spill in history.

Dudley takes over from Tony Hayward, who resigned in July after he was widely criticized over his handling of the oil spill.

Separately, BP pledged to pay a record 15-million-dollar fine to the US government for releasing pollutants into the air at its Texas refinery, officials said Thursday.

The penalty is the largest to date assessed for civil violations of the act's chemical accident prevention regulations, they said.

The settlement, which requires court approval, addresses violations during three incidents at the refinery: two fires, in March 2004 and July 2005, and a leak in August 2005.

© 2010 AFP

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