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Reuters: U.S. blames BP for Gulf spill


-By Ayesha Rascoe and Anna Driver

September 14, 2011- The United States heaped the lion's share of blame for the country's biggest ever offshore oil spill on BP on Wednesday as the government issued its final assessment of last year's Gulf disaster.

In a report that may be pivotal in the multibillion-dollar legal battles to come and could set the stage for criminal charges, the Coast Guard and the offshore oil regulator said BP was solely to blame for 21 of 35 contributing causes to the Macondo well blow-out that led to the leak, and shared blame for eight more.

After the most definitive look yet at the disaster, investigators said BP focused excessively on containing costs and speeding up operations, and made a series of decisions that complicated cementing operations, which they said were the central cause of the disaster.

While the findings were broadly in line with several previous investigations, this report offered the most comprehensive glimpse into the government's official view on the causes of the Gulf oil spill, including analysis of the recovered blowout preventer and violations of federal regulations by the companies involved with the well.

"BP's cost or time saving decisions without considering contingencies and mitigation were contributing causes of the Macondo blowout," the report said.

BP shares soared 5 percent on the day as investors viewed the findings as spreading responsibility more broadly. Shares of Halliburton -- which was responsible for cementing -- dipped 0.33 percent. Rig operator Transocean rallied more than 4 percent.

The report held no major surprises, said David Pursell, an analyst with energy investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co in Houston, but it "very much points a finger at BP more clearly than I would have expected."

"What they're saying is, it's BP's well. Transocean may have made some mistakes, but part of that was because BP didn't tell them or communicate to them about increasing operational risks. BP is the operator of the well, it's their responsibility," Pursell said.

Investors will now turn their attention to the courts, where numerous cases pitting the companies against each other, the public and the government could drag out for years.

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