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Page 22n Thursday, May 3, 2012


NATION & WORLD


BAKKEN BREAKOUT WEEKLY Ex-BP engineer arrested in Gulf oil spill case


By CAIN BURDEAU and MICHAEL KUNZELMAN Associated Press


NEW ORLEANS — Federal prosecu-


tors brought the first criminal charges April 24 in the Gulf oil spill, accusing a former BP engineer of deleting more than 300 text messages that indicated the blown-out well was spewing far more crude than the company was telling the public at the time. Two years and four days after the


drilling-rig explosion that set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, Kurt Mix, 50, of Katy, Texas, was arrested and charged with two counts of obstruc- tion of justice for allegedly destroying evidence. His attorney, Joan McPhee, issued


Associated Press


Former BP engineer Kurt Mix leaves the federal courthouse after a hearing April 24 in Houston. Federal prosecutors brought the first criminal charges in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, accusing Mix of deleting more than 300 text messages that indicated the blown-out well was spewing far more crude than the company was telling the public at the time.


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a statement the evening of April 24 de- scribing the charges as misguided and that she is confident Mix will be exoner- ated. “The government says he inten-


tionally deleted text messages from his phone, but the content of those messages still resides in thousands of emails, text messages and other documents that he saved,” she said. “Indeed, the emails that


Kurt preserved include the very ones highlighted by the government.” The U.S. Justice Department made


it clear that the investigation is still go- ing on and suggested that more people could be arrested. In a statement, Attor- ney General Eric Holder said prosecu- tors “will hold accountable those who violated the law in connection with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.” Federal investigators have been look-


ing into the causes of the blowout and the actions of managers, engineers and rig workers at BP and its subcontractors Halliburton and Transocean in the days and hours before the April 20, 2010, ex- plosion. But the case against Mix focuses only


on the aftermath of the blast, when BP scrambled for weeks to plug the leak. Even then, the charges are not really about the disaster itself, but about an al- leged attempt to thwart the investigation into it. In court papers, the FBI said one of


the areas under investigation is whether the oil company intentionally lowballed the amount of crude spewing from the well.


In outlining the charges, the gov-


ernment suggested Mix knew the rate of flow from the busted well was much greater than the company publicly ac- knowledged. Prosecutors also said BP gave the


public an optimistic account of its May 2010 efforts to plug the well via a tech- nique called a “top kill,” even though the company’s internal data and some of the text messages showed the operation was likely to fail. An accurate flow-rate estimate is nec-


essary to determine how much in pen- alties BP and its subcontractors could face under the Clean Water Act. In court papers, prosecutors appeared to suggest the company was also worried about the effect of the disaster on its stock price. The charges came a day before a fed-


eral judge was to consider granting pre- liminary approval of a $7.8 billion civil settlement between BP and a committee of plaintiffs. In a statement, BP said it is cooper-


ating with the Justice Department and added: “BP had clear policies requiring preservation of evidence in this case and has undertaken substantial and ongoing


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