BP Should Settle Oil Spill Case: Former Shell Oil Exec

Big oil continues to dominate the headlines this week between the ever rising price at the pump and BP’sGulf oil spill trial that has been re-scheduled for Monday. Frank Glaviano, former vice president for production operations at Shell Exploration and Production Americas, is a resident of Louisiana. He shared his insights into the pain at the pump as well as the impending BP trial.

Simulated oil splatter on a BP gas station sign in Manhattan, New York.
Photo: Johan Lammers
Simulated oil splatter on a BP gas station sign in Manhattan, New York.

Lori Ann Larocco: What is the environment down in Louisiana while the country is facing pain at the pump?

Frank Glaviano: It doesn’t make sense to have gas prices rising and have an administration to say we are drilling more now than we were in the past based on data, but I can give you data that says we are not. We are not back where we were. And on top of that, there was the Keystone pipeline that the administration didn’t do. When you look at all this, I just want to ask — what is their energy solution? What does this country want to do? What is our country’s energy strategy? I can tell you in my 35 years in the business, I can’t point to any administration that has had an energy strategy. We have a collection of isolated events. The government does something or doesn’t do something. There is no clear plan.

LL: How is the drilling activity in the Gulf?

FG: It’s better than it was a year ago, but it is not at pre-BP levels. I don’t understand why it can’t be fixed. The response should not have been grind down the business. It’s not a proper response to a crisis. If there was a plane crash, you don’t slow down the entire airline industry. As terrible as it is, we analyze it, we fix it, and move on.

LL: The BP case is set for Monday. Are you surprised it has not settled yet?

FG: I was visiting with my daughter earlier this week, and I told her I could not imagine how BP would want to take this to court because it is such a complicated case. I don’t have a window inside BP, but I can tell you engineers make lousy witnesses, and I can say that because I was an engineer. Why are they lousy witnesses? Because they are generally honest people. They are technical people and they love to talk about their projects. Corporate lawyers hate to put engineers on the witness stand, and plaintiff’s lawyers can’t wait to get their hands on them because they talk a lot and they tell you the whole story. Not because they’re trying to deceive you. They are not trained to go on the stand. They are trained to do technical work and defend their work in a technical way. And I could not imagine a case like this which is so complex, that BP would want anything else but to settle and not to go through that.

LL: From a plaintiff’s standpoint, wouldn’t they want a settlement, as well?

FG: BP in the end will decide if they will settle or not. They will have to weigh the out-of-pocket cost of going to trial versus settling. I have had to make many of those decisions in the past. That’s part of the equation. On the plaintiff’s side, they have to decide if they take the offer or go for something bigger. That’s the gambling game that people do as they stare each other on the court house steps.