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Texas Officials: BP's Lawyer Acknowledged Company Negligence

Officials in Texas say a BP lawyer told them that negligence could be a cause of the Gulf disaster. BP holds fast with its denials.

BP executives have repeatedly denied accusations that the disaster in the Gulf was a result of company negligence, but a letter to BP from Texas officials suggest that some within BP don’t entirely agree.

In a letter sent to BP last week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbot described a conversation in which BP lawyer Jack Lynch said that gross negligence was a possibility.

From the letter:

During a conference call with Gulf Coast attorneys general, BP General Counsel Jack Lynch acknowledged that gross negligence would be revealed as a cause of the explosion that led to the oil spill.

If you’re wondering whether the Texas governor just has it in for BP, remember that this is the same official who spoke at the Chamber of Commerce in May and warned against jumping to conclusions, “a knee-jerk reaction” to the spill, and suggested that the spill was “just an act of God.”

A BP spokesman told The Houston Chronicle — where we first noticed the questions about the letter — that the Texas governor and attorney general were wrong in the letter, and that “during the 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.”

A finding of negligence would cost BP quite a bit. As we've noted, if gross negligence is found, the company could face penalties four times larger for violations of the Clean Water Act. It would also lose the argument for having its two well co-owners, Anadarko and MOEX Offshore, help foot the cleanup bill.

We've asked the Texas attorney general's office for details about that conference call in order to check Lynch's comments with other Gulf states, and will update when we hear back.

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