By Michael Muskal
5:38 PM EST, November 28, 2012
Two BP employees and a former executive pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a variety of charges, including manslaughter and concealing information from Congress, in connection with the 2010 explosion of the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.
The rig explosion set off the nation’s worst oil spill, more than 200 million gallons that flowed through the gulf, staining the shores of surrounding states and harming a range of industries including fishing and tourism. Eleven people died on the rig when it exploded.
“I think about the tragedy on the Deepwater Horizon every day. But I didn’t cause the tragedy. I am innocent and I put my trust, my reputation and my future in the hands of the judge and jury,” said Robert Kaluza in a statement given to the media before the arraignment.
Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, BP well site leaders, pleaded not guilty to federal manslaughter charges in connection with the 11 deaths. They are accused of disregarding pressure readings that the government maintains were signals that an explosion on the rig was coming.
“Bob is an innocent man,” said Shaun Clarke, attorney for Kaluza. “This indictment defies logic, common sense and the facts. The indictment doesn’t ring true because it isn’t true,” he said. “After spending nearly three years and tens of millions of dollars on this investigation, the federal government needs a scapegoat. Unfortunately, they settled on Bob.”
David Rainey, a former BP vice president for exploration for the gulf, was charged separately with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil that was leaking from the well.
All three remained free on bond following their arraignments.
The arraignments came on the same day that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was temporarily suspending the company from bidding on new government contracts.
The temporary suspension was not unexpected after BP agreed earlier this month to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges and to pay more than $4.5 billion in fines to the government and the Securities and Exchange Commission. BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect in connection with the 11 people who died in the explosion on the rig. It also agreed to plead to guilty to one count of obstruction of Congress.