One Year After the Gulf Spill, BP and Transocean Back in the News

One Year After the Gulf Spill, BP and Transocean Back in the News

Bad timing has taken on a whole new meaning this week, as offshore oil drilling firm Transocean has touted its safety record and offered significant bonuses and raises to executives just two weeks before the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, reported Saturday by the Wall Street Journal, the company declared 2010 the "best year in safety performance in our company's history," and offered president and CEO Steven L. Newman a $200,000 raise and more than $374,000 in bonuses.

Transocean's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and sent somewhere around 5,000,000 barrels' worth of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

In the wake of not-at-all-surprising protests and complaints about the statement, the company issued an apology:

Ihab Toma, Transocean's executive vice-president for global business, said in a statement Monday that the company regretted its phrasing.

"We acknowledge that some of the wording in our 2010 proxy statement may have been insensitive in light of the incident that claimed the lives of eleven exceptional men last year and we deeply regret any pain that it may have caused," Toma said.

"Nothing in the proxy was intended to minimize this tragedy or diminish the impact it has had on those who lost loved ones. Everyone at Transocean continues to mourn the loss of these friends and colleagues," the statement adds.

But apparently, the gaffes are contagious among those responsible for the Gulf oil spill: Also this week, reports began leaking out that BP was working on securing rights to drill again in the Gulf of Mexico's deep water, followed almost immediately by denials and dismissals in Washington.

From Reuters:

"There is absolutely no such agreement nor would there be such an agreement" with BP to resume drilling, Salazar said at a briefing while visiting the Mexican capital.

Salazar said that BP would need to go through the same review process to resume drilling as other companies.

"If they follow all the rules and they actually submit a development plan that is deemed safe and best practice, they're going to get issued a permit," said Ken Medlock, an energy fellow at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston.
"It's obviously not going to be without scrutiny," he said.

There is no doubt that BP will eventually get back into the deepwater drilling business in U.S. waters, especially in the wake of President Obama's pragmatic energy plan, which focuses on domestic oil and natural gas production as a baby-step toward a lower-carbon economy.

Photo CC-licensed by Deepwater Horizon Response.