We had this gradual discovery during Hurricane Katrina, where a natural disaster eventually became seen as what it was, a man-made failure. And now, what was called an “act of God” and a freak accident by the defenders of the pollution industry is now being labeled, proof positive, as the consequence of design failure. Not only did the blowout preventer under the Deepwater Horizon well have a leak in it, not only did it include a dead battery, not only were the tests on it falsified for years, but when engineers actually needed to use it and tried to activate it, they didn’t have the right schematics:

WASHINGTON — In the days after an oil well spun out of control in the Gulf of Mexico, BP engineers tried to activate a huge piece of underwater safety equipment but failed because the device had been so altered that diagrams BP got from the equipment’s owner didn’t match the supposedly failsafe device’s configuration, congressional investigators said Wednesday.

The oil well also failed at least one critical pressure test on the day that gas surged up the drill pipe and set the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig aflame, killing 11 and setting off a spill that has spewed 210,000 gallons of crude into the gulf every day for three weeks, according to BP documents provided to congressional investigators.

“The more I learn about this accident, the more concerned I become. This catastrophe appears to have been caused by a calamitous series of equipment and operational failures” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said at a hearing on Wednesday – the third congressional hearing in two days on the unfolding catastrophe.

Why are the same people who designed faulty materials, who failed to follow safety procedures, STILL DESIGNING THE EQUIPMENT to stop a leak which has been gushing for three weeks? Apparently the Obama Administration has recruited five scientists, according to McClatchy, to work day and night on the problem. NOW we get a Manhattan Project.

This is all a consequence of aggressive deregulation by industry, the maneuvers whereby powerful interests save billions in safety costs. They follow the rules at their discretion, they practically own the regulatory agency. It’s amazing how much this mirrors the problems on Wall Street. And just like with Goldman Sachs, the criminal justice system may get involved.

Federal investigators are likely to file criminal charges against at least one of the companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico spill, raising the prospects of significantly higher penalties than a current $75 million cap on civil liability, legal experts say.

The inquiry by the Homeland Security and Interior Departments into how the spill occurred is still in its early stages and authorities have not confirmed whether a criminal investigation has been launched.

But environmental law experts say it’s just a matter of time until the Justice Department steps in – if it hasn’t already – to initiate a criminal inquiry and take punitive action.

“There is no question there’ll be an enforcement action,” said David M. Uhlmann, who headed the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section for seven years during the Clinton and Bush administrations. “And, it’s very likely that there will be at least some criminal charges brought.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu says progress is being made on slowing or stopping the underwater gusher. I would hope as much progress is being made on the criminal side, too. Because that’s what we have here. Criminal negligence.