NEW ORLEANS - The two rig supervisors accused of manslaughter in the BP oil spill have asked to delay their Feb. 4 criminal trial in federal court.
Attorneys for BP workers Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine are asking Judge Stanwood Duval to push the trial back to the end of 2013 because it involves a "large volume of material," is "complex" and "More time is needed for preparation."
The two men are accused of misinterpreting the results of a final test of the strength of BP’s deep sea well shortly before it blew sky high on April 20, 2010, killing 11 rig workers and setting off the worst accidental offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Investigative records show that Kaluza, and later Vidrine, were confused by the results of the final well strength test, called the negative pressure test, but ruled it a successful test and assumed that the cement and steel lining the well had successfully kept dangerous natural gas out of the hole. Under that false impression, Vidrine ordered the removal of heavy drilling mud that protected against gas flowing up the well and that’s when it blew.
Independent experts have said that Kaluza and Vidrine never should have accepted the test, and prosecutors say they were grossly negligent to do so. Investigators’ notes show that contract workers under Vidrine and Kaluza reassured the supervisors that a force called the “bladder effect” or “annular compression” was at play and urged them not to worry about it, even though independent experts say the “bladder effect” is a myth.
Kaluza and Vidrine’s lawyers have signaled that they will defend their clients by citing several government and corporate investigations that found a series of decisions – not just the interpretation of the negative pressure tests – caused the blast, starting with BP engineers and other higher-ups who devised cost-cutting designs for the well and used less safe sealing methods. They say their clients have been “scapegoated” by BP and the federal prosecutors for mistakes that go far above the two veteran oilfield workers.
The well, known as Macondo, had been drilled three miles into the seafloor and a mile below the floating drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon. The intense pressures down there caused gas to seep into the bottom of the well and that gas blew out through tubing to the rig above, setting it ablaze in massive fire balls.