Well, besides the fact that I have two other interesting ideas in the hopper, this notion occurred to me and I thought I’d get it down before I forget.

This question is admittedly in the context of the BP/Gulf spill, but I want (on the outset) to make it clear that I am making no allegation here. I have no factual basis or even hearsay reports which would back up my question. But … the problem is, is that if my question has merit, there wouldn’t be would there?

Let me begin with a legal question about liability. 

Say I’m doing a particular activity, and am following the legal restrictions and regulations regarding that practice. But, what I don’t realize is that by following the legal regulations disaster is inevitable. That is I’m in a catch-22 situation, if I fail to do as required I break the law, if I do follow the law then a disaster occurs. Suppose “not doing” this thing is not really feasible. As an aside, I might mention it is for this reason that I think that regulatory approval should indemnify a company which follows said regulations from liability. 

But my question here doesn’t hinge on legal question but political ones. If the disaster that occurs turns out to loom large on the public stage then an investigation is undoubtedly going to follow. This investigation is going to closely tied with those same people and parts of the government which put the regulations in place which both led to the disaster and which were the responsibility of that same said part/party of the government.

So, here’s the question: How likely is the government culpability going to come out investigation? Will that side of it get a fair hearing? And furthermore, is it necessarily in the interest of the injured party to blame the government regulator when their livelihood depends on a working relationship with that same party? 

Consider the BP/Gulf disaster directly here. BP and all the Gulf oil contractors and drillers are required to use government provided survey and risk models in their business. How and what manner of safety devices are regulated by law, you can’t use something different or better, e.g., you have to use the mandated “cutoff valves” as specified. So it seems a big culprit in this story will be, as in the Challenger disaster, a failure in government run QC/QA practices. At the same time, I’m guessing it’s not in BPs interest in the long run to fight to have the blame correctly assigned with the feds as they (and everyone in their industry) has to work with the feds to get anything done. So, the government (especially in our semi-continual election season) will not want to be blamed. BP will not fight getting blamed. So, even if BP/Deepwater ultimately is not the true culprit here, they will in fact be made the fall guys. 

Filed under: GovernmentMark O.

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