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BP Keeps Up Its Negligence Denials Despite Texas Officials' Insistence

BP expands its explanation of a lawyer's "negligence" comment, but Texas officials stand by their account.

Yesterday we flagged a curious line in a recent letter from Texas officials to BP, in which the Texas governor and attorney general wrote that BP lawyer Jack Lynch had told them "gross negligence" was a possible cause of the Gulf spill. The Houston Chronicle first reported on the letter, and quoted a BP official saying the letter was incorrect. Here's the company's full response to us—it's similar, but includes a few more details about what BP felt was the relevant part of that conference call:

While BP respects Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott and appreciates the opportunity to work with them, the recitation in their letter is simply a mistake. During the May 6, 2010, conference call, neither Jack Lynch nor any other BP representative stated that gross negligence would be revealed as the cause of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. The pertinent part of the May 6, 2010, call was a discussion among lawyers about certain provisions of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

That's also how the Texas officials described it—a conversation about the Oil Pollution Act. In their July 22 letter, they said BP wasn't invoking the Oil Pollution Act's liability cap because it had acknowledged negligence in a conference all with them.

When I asked the Texas attorney general's office for its reaction to BP's denial, spokesman Jerry Strickland stood by the account detailed in the letter:

BP is apparently disavowing its acknowledgment that certain evidence about the Deepwater Horizon explosion would be revealed—and that evidence would render the Oil Pollution Act's liability cap inapplicable—just as they have backed away from their assurances that Texas would receive the $25 million oil spill response grants that every other Gulf State received. And because BP continues to say one thing and apparently mean another, questions about their statements' real meaning—which evidence, parties and conduct they were referring to—should be directed to BP.

The response and the letter indicate that the initial benefit-of-the-doubt that Texas Gov. Rick Perry extended to BP—when he warned that the spill was "just an act of God"—may have dissipated, especially after BP denied the state's request for a $25 million cleanup grant.

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