Tuesday, April 24, 2012

BP Oil Spill Engineer Arrested For Obstruction Of Justice

Kurt Mix, a former BP engineer who deleted over 300 text messages describing the failure of BP’s “top kill” attempts to plug its leaking Gulf of Mexico Macondo well, was arrested today, April 24, by federal agents and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice. These accusations, the first criminal charges arising out of the spill, come just one day before scheduled fairness hearings before New Orleans District Judge Carl Barbier on the proposed $7.8 billion settlement between BP and class plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit claiming medical and business damages for the losses caused by the spill.

The Department of Justice charges that Mix, age 50, of Katy, Texas, deleted more than 200 messages sent to his boss in October 2010 containing details about how much oil was leaking from the wellhead. Accurate flow rate estimates are essential in determining not only the amount of civil and criminal penalties BP and the other businesses involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster could face, but also in deciding whether the “top kill” approach was even capable of plugging the leak at the time it occurred. The Justice Department also charges Mix with erasing 100 more messages in 2011, after he was notified several times that he was legally required to preserve the information. The deleted messages contained Mix’ estimates that the flow rate of the leak was over 15,000 barrels per day – more than BP said the top kill method could ever handle.

In response to the arrest of Mix, BP issued a statement that it is cooperating with the Justice Department and other agencies investigating the oil spill: “BP had clear policies requiring preservation of evidence in this case and has undertaken substantial and ongoing efforts to preserve evidence.” Bail for Mix was set at $100,000.00. If convicted, Mix faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.00 on each count.

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