Bob Cavnar: Five Questions With A Deepwater Horizon Expert

Categories: Environment

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Bob Cavnar is not happy with investigative efforts so far
Bob Cavnar is an oil-industry insider who quickly became an expert-in-demand for reporters covering the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the resulting Gulf oil spill.

He's written a book on the event, Disaster on the Horizon, and will be at Brazos Bookstore to discuss it and sign copies from 3 to 4:30 p.m tomorrow.

Hair Balls had five questions for him.

5) What do you make of the investigative report and conclusions that have been released so far?
They are repeating what they're being told by BP, Chevron, Shell, and Exxon. Fred Bartlit's conclusion that no decisions were made pitting money against lives is a false comparison. Of course, no one decided to trade lives for money on April 20th. However, BP decided on lower cost casing design, ignoring increased risks. Bartlit has accepted BP's assertions almost at face value.

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4) Was Deepwater Horizon a worst-case scenario, or could things have been far more destructive?
This was about as bad as it could get, except for the good fortune of good weather, calm seas, and an able rescue crew on the Damon Bankston. There was a fine line here between 11 deaths and over 100.

3) Do you trust the industry/federal government to fix things? Why or why not?
Just the opposite. Drilling rule changes are stalled in the courts.The major rule changes (increasing the $75 million liability cap and increasing the permit review time) both require congressional action, which simply won't happen under the Republicans. They'll use this as an opportunity for a showdown with the Obama administration. As time drags on, the administration will cave, allowing the rigs to go back to work with only superficial changes. No redesign of safety systems is even proposed.

2) How much did a cost-cutting philosophy contribute to the disaster?
Certainly the casing design increased the risk by eliminating a downhole barrier and increasing the chance of a bad cement job. Beyond that, though, was the complacency, overconfidence, and convoluted management structure that allowed for unchecked bad decisions. This is what started the disaster to go into motion. Due to lack of oversight, events compounded, causing the blowout.

1) What's one thing most people don't realize about what happened either in the event itself or dealing with the aftermath, and why is it important?
Even though the well has been off of the television for two months, the well was actually capped only 3 days ago. BP and the government never publicly disclosed the condition of the casing as they worked on it for two months.

Over 75 percent of the oil spewed into the Gulf never reached the surface. The estimate that it was "dispersed" or "dissipated" is unsupported by facts.



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