Clarification to This Article
This article about testimony before a presidential oil spill commission said a representative for plaintiffs against the oil company BP noted that several lawyers at the law firm of the commission's general counsel, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., were doing work for Halliburton, a contractor for BP. At the time of the hearing, the law firm's Web site also listed Halliburton under the heading "Representative Clients." But the firm's managing partner, Sidney N. Herman, later said that the firm has not done any work for Halliburton "for at least five years."
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'Culture of complacency' at BP set stage for oil spill, commission chief says

BP, the government and an army of volunteers are fighting to contain and clean the millions of gallons of oil spewing from the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sources familiar with BP communication records said that by mid-April BP was concerned about the rig having too much down time; the company was trying to avoid idling the Deepwater Horizon if it went directly to Kaskida and had to wait for equipment and supplies.

To keep open the option of doing work on another well first, BP also sent a letter on April 19 asking the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service to give the company an extension on the Kaskida well. In it, BP said that because of "well control issues" the Deepwater Horizon was running 38 days behind schedule, would be finished at Macondo on April 28 and ready to carry out work at Kaskida on June 6.

But several commission members still seemed undecided about whether BP had rushed to finish the Macondo well or made crucial well design decisions that aimed at speed in a business where time is money.

For much of Tuesday's hearing, commission members heard descriptions of corporate safety culture from Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil, and Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil, the American unit of Royal Dutch Shell. Although the pair did not directly criticize BP, they listed actions they had taken to create a culture of safety that, by implication, BP had not done.

The commission co-chairmen said they were still worried about the industry's practices. Reilly said that several "egregiously wrong" decisions by the three major companies "suggests to me that it is a systemic problem." His co-chairman, former senator Bob Graham, said he still doubted whether the industry could handle another blowout like this.

"The main thing they don't have now is an in-place containment ability," he said.

Earlier, a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement official testified that the entire district office budget for the Gulf of Mexico was $3.5 million for helicopter travel and $2.3 million for salaries, offices and everything else.

Graham said that the regulatory system in place did not give the public confidence that oil industry drilling operations are competently monitored.

Staff writer Joel Achenbach contributed to this report.


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