Halliburton is guilty of criminal destruction and a whole lot more. The Department of Justice announced Thursday that Halliburton had agreed to plead guilty to criminally destroying evidence in the investigation of the BP Gulf oil spill in 2010. Halliburton signed a cooperation and guilty plea agreement. It will pay $200,000, the maximum fine, and will undergo three years of probation. The company with long-standing ties to former vice president Dick Cheney, Halliburton had previously made a voluntary $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, according to ThinkProgress.org.
Halliburton in Deepwater Horizon Disaster
The oil services company formerly run by Cheney oversaw the cement pouring while the Macondo well was drilled, and it performed maintenance on the rig just hours before it exploded on April 20, 2010. Halliburton employees escaped on a helicopter just before the uncontrolled blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people and ignited the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Halliburton Profits from its own Mess
Halliburton also bought the largest oil cleanup company in the world, Boots and Coots, just eleven days before the well exploded. The timing of that purchase deserves further investigation, along with Halliburton’s role in the explosion that gave Boots & Coots an enormous role to play in the multi-million-dollar cleanup. Halliburton puts new meaning to the term “cleanup.” Halliburton really cleaned up on the disaster south of New Orleans.
Halliburton “was responsible for conducting the cement job,” according to the final investigation. BP and Halliburton disagreed over how many centralizers were needed on the well. Centralizers help centralize the well bore. According to the Justice Department press release, Halliburton tried to find out what went wrong:
On or about May 3, 2010, Halliburton established an internal working group to examine the Macondo well blowout, including whether the number of centralizers used on the final production casing could have contributed to the blowout. A production casing is a long, heavy metal pipe set across the area of the oil and natural gas reservoir. Centralizers are protruding metal collars affixed at various intervals on the outside of the casing. Use of centralizers can help keep the casing centered in the wellbore away from the surrounding walls as it is lowered and placed in the well. Centralization can be significant to the quality of subsequent cementing around the bottom of the casing. Prior to the blowout, Halliburton had recommended to BP the use of 21 centralizers in the Macondo well. BP opted to use six centralizers instead.
Halliburton performed 3D simulations of the final cementing job, using six and then 21 centralizers. The simulations showed there was little difference between the two scenarios, suggesting that Halliburton’s recommendation to BP that the well should have 21 centralizers instead of 6 was irrelevant, which of course leaves Halliburton more exposed to liability. Halliburton officials told the Senior Program Manager who conducted the simulations to destroy the results. Then Halliburton ran the same simulations a month later, and again the person who conducted the simulation was ordered to “get rid” of the results.
Halliburton denies Responsibility
“This is relevant,” wrote thinkprogress.org, “because when the 2011 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement report on the spill found that BP and Halliburton shared responsibility for the spill, Halliburton denied responsibility. Halliburton spokeswoman Beverly Stafford said the report ‘incorrectly attributes the operation decisions to Halliburton,’ and that “Every contributing cause where Halliburton is named, the operational responsibility lies solely with BP. Halliburton remains confident that all the work we performed with respect to the … well was completed in accordance with BP’s specifications for its well construction plan and instructions.”
BP filed court papers in 2011 accusing Halliburton of having “intentionally destroyed evidence” related to the explosion. A Halliburton spokeswoman responded, “We believe that the conclusions that BP is asking the court to draw is without merit and we look forward to contesting their motion in court.”
But now, a year and a half later, Halliburton has agreed to cooperate with the investigation, pay the maximum fine, plead guilty and undergo probation. “Corporate probation is often used when the prosecution defers prosecution,” wrote thinkprogress.org, “or tries to get a corporation to change practices. It is unclear why probation was used in this case — it is possible that penalties will be higher for future violations within the three years, in addition to an agreement to cooperate with the investigation. The settlement still requires court approval.”
The company that leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, TransOcean, has already admitted criminal and civil violations and settled with the federal government to the tune of $1.4 billion. BP has already pled guilty and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines and penalties.
In June, BP decided to stop sending crews to Gulf Coast beaches, even as tar balls continue to wash ashore.Here’s hoping you aren’t buying gas from them if you can help it.
Halliburton a Disaster Capitalist – makes fortune off the spill it caused
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain who looks oddly like former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney. Halliburton built the cement casing which many experts say caused the Deepwater Horizon’s drill. But in a stroke of astounding corporate luck, the company announced its purchase of Houston-based oilfield services company Boots and Coots for $240 million on April 9, just 11 days before the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Why is this scandalous behavior not reported on every front page in America?
According to a report at the Christian Science Monitor in 2010, Boots and Coots was then under contract with BP to help clean up the oil spill. CSM reports that the company “focuses on oil spill prevention and blowout response.” Halliburton also found hot water (pun intended) when it received some sweetheart, no-bid contracts in the so-called War on Terror (Read: “War of Terror”) in Iraq.
“[Mergers and acquisitions] in the industrial and oil services sectors is totally normal,” wrote David Anderson at The Inspired Economist, “but the timing in this case, is not. Boots & Coots sure seems like the perfect company to own if it would soon become necessary to get more involved with some oil disaster.
Could Halliburton have known that an oil disaster loomed in the Gulf, and planned in advance to profit from it? News reports indicate they could have.
The New York Times reported in May 2010 that BP was concerned about the rig’s well casing — which Halliburton worked on — as early as June of 2009. The Times also reported that a Halliburton employee warned BP three weeks before the explosion that BP’s use of cement for the well casing was “against [Halliburton’s] best practices.”
But even if the company’s purchase of Boots and Coots was just a “lucky coincidence,” there is still plenty about it to alarm anyone who cares to pay attention. According to CSM, analysts are worried that a company like Halliburton will grow “complacent” in preventing disasters, because there is money to be made from cleaning up the mess — and then rebuilding the oil rig. Or, when business is slow, say, how about causing disasters it can then “clean up.” With its current business model, Halliburton will continue to “clean up,” all right.
Iraq War puts Halliburton back in Black
Halliburton was reporting plummeting revenue in quarters before its purchase of Boots and Coots, which has been successful. Its revenue jumped from $11 million in 2000 to $209 million in 2008 after Cheney and Bush launched their invasions in the Middle East. Tar and disaster are good for Halliburton’s bottom line but maybe not so good for the rest of the world trying to breathe clean air, swim in clean water, eat fish not poisoned by toxic Corexit, toxic Halliburton.