First arrest in BP spill case. #rsrh

Shackles and handcuffs seem like unnecessary theatrics. And it’s not about a negligent well design or the proximate cause of the spill, it’s about the amount of the fine.

From the Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, LA):

But the case against [former BP engineer Kurt] 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 alleged attempt to thwart the investigation into it. …

An accurate flow-rate estimate is necessary to determine how much in penalties 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. …

Mix, who resigned from BP in January, appeared on Tuesday afternoon before a judge in Houston, shackled at his hands and feet, and was released on $100,000 bail. His attorney had no comment afterward. If convicted, Mix could get up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. …

On the day the top kill began, Mix estimated in a text to his supervisor that more than 15,000 barrels of oil per day were spilling — three times BP’s public estimate of 5,000 barrels and an amount much greater than what BP said the top kill could probably handle.

At the end of the first day, Mix texted his supervisor: “Too much flow rate — over 15,000 and too large an orifice.” Despite Mix’s findings, BP continued to make public statements that the top kill was proceeding according to plan, prosecutors said. On May 29, the top kill was halted and BP announced its failure. …

Under the Clean Water Act, polluters can be fined $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel of spilled oil, with the higher amount imposed if the government can show the disaster was caused by gross negligence.

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