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Tuesday: Probes Faulted BP Safety Record; U.S. Voters Head to Polls

Blue Heron
A great blue heron stands on an oil containment boom being used to protect Pensacola Beach, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Internal investigations over the past decade warned BP managers that the company disregarded safety and environmental rules and risked accident if it did not change its ways, according to a report by ProPublica.

The confidential inquiries, obtained by ProPublica and not previously made public, documented safety problems across BP’s North American operations, including the Gulf of Mexico.

“They described instances in which management flouted safety by neglecting aging equipment, pressured or harassed employees not to report problems, and cut short or delayed inspections in order to reduce production costs. Executives were not held accountable for the failures, and some were promoted despite them.”

ProPublica’s report, which was also published in Tuesday’s Washington Post, adds, “One key question the EPA will consider is whether the company’s leadership can be trusted and whether BP’s culture can change” as the government agency weighs a possible ban on the company for future U.S. drilling.

That leadership came under fire Tuesday morning as President Barack Obama said on NBC’s “Today” show that he would have fired BP chief executive Tony Hayward by now. He also responded to criticism that he’s not doing enough to stop the spill, pointing out that he’s visited the region three times since the spill, and saying:

“I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar, we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers — so I know whose ass to kick.”

According to BP spokesman Toby Odone, under Hayward, the company has worked to implement an operating safety system to create “responsible operations at every BP operation.”

Meanwhile, oil continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, but at what rate? BP is saying that it is capturing 11,000 barrels of oil a day. But as the New York Times reports, “With no consensus among experts on how much oil is pouring from the wellhead, it is difficult — if not impossible — to assess the containment cap’s effectiveness.”

Experts on the government team charged with estimating the flow rate think the leak might actually be worse since the collection device was put into place. Ira Leifer, an expert on the Flow Rate Technical Group, tells the Times:

“It’s apparent that BP is playing games with us, presumably under the advice of their legal team. It’s six weeks that it’s been dumping into the gulf, and still no measurements.”

Voters Head to the Polls

Nevada, California and Arkansas are among 12 states holding primaries and runoffs Tuesday, the busiest day thus far of this year’s congressional and gubernatorial elections.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will find out who their Republican opponents will be this fall. Fellow Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Ark., faces a tough battle even to be on the ballot.

We’ll be watching the races throughout the day and tonight.

NATO Suffers Deadliest 24 Hours in Afghanistan

Twelve NATO soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in the deadliest 24 hours for the alliance this year. On Monday, five U.S. soldiers died in an improvised bomb blast in east Afghanistan and five other NATO troops were killed in attacks across the South and East. Two more soldiers were killed in an improvised bomb attack in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday.

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