Tuesday was possibly the best day that British oil giant BP (NYSE: BP) might have hoped for. However, it also may have cost Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC) some of its hard-earned shekels.

After months of defending itself from antipathy leveled at it by the American public and even its peers, BP has seemingly been at least partially exonerated by the presidential commission examining the tragic April 20 explosion that sank Transocean's (NYSE: RIG) Deepwater Horizon rig, killed 11, and set off the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Indeed, as to the contention that the tragedy was clearly caused by an obsessive focus on costs by BP -- shoving safety into the background -- the commission has seemingly cleansed the company, at least for now.

As Fred Bartlit, the chief counsel of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, said at Tuesday's hearing, "To date, we have not found a single instance where human beings made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety." That statement alone could save BP billions in fines and judgments from the hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed against it.

Following the tragedy, the company has been roundly criticized for its safety practices -- or lack thereof -- by other members of Big Oil such as ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), Shell (NYSE: RDS-A), and Chevron (NYSE: CVX). Nevertheless, the commission, led by co-chairmen Bob Graham, a former Florida senator, and William Reilly, head of the Environmental Protection Agency under former President George H.W. Bush, seemed inclined to paint with a broader brush.

As their efforts wound down, its members indicated that the errors apparently committed aboard the sunken rig, rather than being unique occurrences fostered by BP or its subcontractors, were indicative of an industrywide culture characterized by a cavalier attitude toward safety. They also indicated that such a culture could enhance a movement toward stricter regulations and stronger limits on drilling.

BP's minority partners in the blown-out well, Anadarko and Japan's Mitsui & Co., have thus far refused to contribute amounts reflective of their minority interests -- for which they had been billed a total of $4.6 billion as of earlier this month -- for cleanup in the Gulf and the compensation of spill victims. Instead, they have pointed to what they saw as BP's "gross negligence" in causing the spill, thereby absolving them of their contractual obligations. However, the commission's findings, as indicated by Bartlit's comments, would seem to obviate that stance.

Clearly BP, Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), which handled cementing of the well, and the other companies involved aren't out of the financial and legal woods yet. Nevertheless, especially given the drubbing that BP's shares have taken since the tragedy began, I'm inclined to believe that those shares have far brighter prospects for recovering their sea legs -- no pun intended -- than they did as the week began.  

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.