Courtroom recap: Day 2 of the BP oil spill trial

By Whit Remer, Policy Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund

Today marked the second day of the BP oil spill trial, which kicked off with the plaintiffs’ lawyers calling their first two witnesses: Dr. Robert “Bob” Bea, an engineer, and Lamar McKay, Chairman and President of BP America.

Dr. Bea is an expert on “process safety,” a field of civil engineering that focuses on preventing catastrophic incidents, like the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the ensuing release of millions of barrels of oil that polluted the Gulf of Mexico and shorelines. Mr. McKay is President and Chairman of BP North America.

With the help of Dr. Bea’s testimony, the plaintiffs’ lawyers began the day by framing BP as a company more interested in making money than the safety of their workers or practicing responsible drilling. Lawyers presented evidence that BP knew drilling in deep water was extremely risky and could cause severe damage to the environment if the company lost control of the rig. Dr. Bea suggested that despite knowing the risks and receiving multiple warnings of safety hazards across the company, BP continued to drill in the interest of bolstering profits. The mantra that seemed to resonate across the courtroom and through the media was that to BP, every dollar mattered, regardless of risk.

BP’s lawyers attempted to prove that the company was trying to improve its safety record, but argued that at companies as large as BP, such change takes time. Unfortunately for the ecosystem and citizens of the Gulf Coast, BP’s attempts to improve safety were not implemented nearly quickly or effectively enough to prevent the 2010 gulf oil disaster.

Stay tuned for more updates from New Orleans. For a recap of yesterday’s events, check out our blog post.