Posted by | June 8, 2010 10:17 | Filed under: Top Stories

BP officials were warned repeatedly during the past decade that the company was disregarding safety and environmental rules and was in danger of causing a serious accident.

The confidential inquiries, which have not previously been made public, focused on a rash of problems at BP’s Alaska oil-drilling operations. They described instances in which management flouted safety by neglecting aging equipment, pressured employees not to report problems and cut short or delayed inspections to reduce production costs.

BP claims things have changed since Tony Hayward took over in 2007, but BP was still facing difficulties because of its safety issues, and not just in Alaska.

Because of its string of accidents before the April 20 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, BP faced a possible ban on its federal contracting and on new U.S. drilling leases, several senior former Environmental Protection Agency department officials told ProPublica. That inquiry has taken on new significance in light of the oil spill in the gulf. One key question the EPA will consider is whether the company’s leadership can be trusted and whether BP’s culture can change.

According its own records in 2001, BP didn’t have gas and fire detection sensors and emergency shutoff valves in place in its Alaska facilities.

Now investigators are learning that similar sensors and their shutoff systems were not operating in the engine room of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in the gulf.

In testimony before a Deepwater Horizon joint investigation panel in New Orleans last month, Deepwater mechanic Douglas Brown said that the backstop mechanism that should have prevented the engines from running wild apparently failed — and so did the air-intake valves that were supposed to close if gas entered the engine room.

He said the engine room wasn’t equipped with a gas alarm system that could have shut off the power.

Minutes later, the rig exploded in a ball of fire, killing 11 workers before sinking to the seafloor, where it left a gaping well pipe that continues to gush oil and gas.

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By: Alan

Alan Colmes is the publisher of Liberaland.