While BP has resisted some government interventions, it has lobbied for tax hikes, greenhouse gas restraints, the stimulus bill, the Wall Street bailout, and subsidies for oil pipelines, solar panels, natural gas and biofuels.
Douglas H. Brown, Transocean's chief mechanic on the Deepwater Horizon rig, said key representatives from both companies had a "skirmish" during an 11 a.m. meeting on April 20. Less than 11 hours later, the well had a blowout, an uncontrolled release of oil and gas, killing 11 workers.
Mr. Brown said Transocean's crew leaders—including the rig operator's top manager, Jimmy W. Harrell—strongly objected to a decision by BP's top representative, or "company man," over how to start removing heavy drilling fluid and replacing it with lighter seawater from a riser pipe connected to the well head. Such pipes act as conduits between the rig and the wellhead at the ocean floor, and carry drilling fluid in and out of the well.
Removing heavy drilling fluid prior to temporarily sealing up a well and abandoning it is normal, but questions have emerged about whether the crew started the process without taking other precautionary measures against gas rising into the pipe.
It wasn't clear what Mr. Harrell objected to specifically about BP's instructions, but the rig's primary driller, Dewey Revette, and tool pusher, Miles Randall Ezell, both of Transocean, also disagreed with BP, Mr. Brown said. However, BP was in charge of the operation and the BP representative prevailed, Mr. Brown said.
"The company man was basically saying, 'This is how it's gonna be,' " said Mr. Brown, who didn't recall the name of the BP representative in question.
Mr. Brown said he didn't normally pay close attention to drilling discussions during the 11 a.m. meetings, which detailed all events on the rig that day. But he said he recalled the dispute, and the cynical reaction of Mr. Harrell as he walked away afterward, in light of the April 20 accident.
Mr. Harrell "pretty much grumbled in his manner, 'I guess that is what we have those pinchers for,' " Mr. Brown testified. He said it was a reference to the shear rams on the drilling operation's blowout preventer, which are supposed to sever the main pipe in case of a disaster.
The blowout preventer failed to stop gas from rising to the surface, causing the explosion, BP has said.