Deepwater Horizon Accident Foreshadows a Potential Disaster Waiting to Happen in the Gulf

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch: (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

Deepwater Horizon Accident Foreshadows a Potential Disaster Waiting to Happen in the Gulf

Food & Water Watch and Safety Engineer Warn of Consequences of a Lack of Critical Safety Documents, Fear Disaster Possible for BP Atlantis

WASHINGTON - Following Tuesday's explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Platform,
leased and operated by British Petroleum (BP) in the Gulf of Mexico, the
national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch is warning of
the possibility of a similarly tragic disaster involving the company's
Atlantis Project- one of the world's deepest semi-submersible oil and
natural gas platforms, located 150 miles south of New Orleans in the
Gulf of Mexico.

Last year, a whistleblower and former company contractor alleged that
the Atlantis platform has been operating without a large percentage of
the engineer-approved documents needed for it to operate safely. An
independent engineer later substantiated these concerns, concluding that
a BP database showed that over 85 percent of the Atlantis Project's
Piping and Instrument drawings lacked final engineer-approval, and that
the project should be immediately shut down until those documents could
be accounted for and are independently verified.

"The tragic explosion on the Deepwater Horizon platform is an urgent
reminder of the calamity that could occur if BP's Atlantis platform is
operating without the approved documents necessary for ensuring its
safety," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water
Watch. "This accident and the recent Massey mine disaster in West
Virginia underscore a complete lack of regulatory oversight over the
operations of the fossil fuel industry."

BP has denied the whistleblower's assertions regarding Atlantis,
going so far as to write a letter to Congressional staff saying that
they are "unsubstantiated," even though internal documents show that in
August 2008, BP management was aware of the problems and believed that
the document deficiencies "could lead to catastrophic Operator error."
An investigation conducted by the company's Ombudsman in April 2009
seems to substantiate the charges, although the investigation's results
did not become known until this month. BP has never acknowledged that
the Ombudsman conducted an investigation of the project's document
deficiencies.

"BP's recklessness in regards to the Atlantis project is a clear
example of how the company has a pattern of failing to comply with
minimum industry standards for worker and environmental safety," said
Mike Sawyer, an Engineer at Apex Safety Consultants, who verified the
contractor-turned-whistleblower's concerns about the company's lack of
proper documents.

In March 2010, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the agency
charged with overseeing the nation's offshore oil and gas platforms,
announced that it would investigate these allegations in response to a
letter from Representative Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and 18 of his
colleagues calling for an investigation and a report on the findings
issued to Congress. Food & Water Watch brought the situation to
Representative Grijalva's attention in October of 2009.

Last week, Food & Water Watch submitted a letter to MMS detailing
the key issues that need to be addressed with MMS's investigation,
highlighting the recently-surfaced information about BP's own Ombudsman
investigation. The organization called on MMS to conduct a thorough
investigation of the situation, including interviewing the
contractor-turned whistleblower who unearthed these potential safety
hazards, and to penalize BP to the fullest extent of the law.

"The accident on the Horizon platform further highlights the
importance of MMS's investigation of the Atlantis Project, as well as
its regulation of offshore drilling activities in that area. As
energy companies push to open more of the Outer Continental Shelf, MMS
needs to make sure that companies like BP are operating safely and
adhering to the law. If the agency does not adequately do so with its
investigation of the BP Atlantis Project, the House Natural Resources
Committee needs to hold oversight hearings and ensure that the explosion
and mishap of the Horizon platform is not replicated," said Zach
Corrigan, Food & Water Watch's senior staff attorney.

Read Food & Water Watch's full timeline of the problems
associated with the BP Atlantis Project here.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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