Food & Water Watch Sues Feds for Ignoring Problems at Operating BP Platform

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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

Food & Water Watch Sues Feds for Ignoring Problems at Operating BP Platform

“Catastrophic Operator Errors” Could Be Next Gulf Disaster

NEW ORLEANS, La. - National consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch filed suit today in a Houston federal court seeking
a temporary injunction to halt operations of BP's massive Atlantis oil
drilling platform until critical safety documents are produced.

The agency, along with a former BP document controls subcontractor,
maintains the Department of the Interior has allowed BP Atlantis to
operate without documented, approved final engineering drawings
considered critical to safe operation.

The organization also kicked off a related advertising campaign today
to put public pressure on the Obama Administration to shut down BP
Atlantis until proven safe.  The television ad is featured at www.SpilltheTruth.org.

Oil gushing from Horizon has already surpassed the 10.8 million
gallon Exxon Valdez spill, according to news reports. A worst-case
scenario oil spill from Atlantis would be many times larger than the
spill from the Horizon explosion and exceed the Exxon Valdez spill
within just two days, according to Wenonah Hauter, executive director of
Food & Water Watch.

"BP Atlantis is a ticking time bomb," Hauter said.  "As clean-up
continues in the Gulf, we need to act to prevent a larger disaster
looming. Given that we have repeatedly asked regulators to act to solve
the Atlantis safety crisis, it's outrageous that nothing has been done
yet."

"We are moving quickly with legal action to prevent a disaster.  We
will show that MMS has failed in its duty to ensure these increasingly
complex deepwater platforms are operating safely," said Mikal C.
Watts, the attorney representing the plaintiffs. "Given the impending
threat of this year's hurricane season, the situation presents an
emergency warranting immediate action and swift attention," he added.

After Food & Water Watch brought the matter to Congress's
attention last year, representative Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and 18 other
members of Congress sent a letter to the MMS calling for an
investigation into the platform. In response, the agency said it would
conduct an investigation starting in March 2010.

In documents recently released to Food & Water Watch in response
to a Freedom of Information Act request, the MMS indicated that the
agency had not and would not take any steps to investigate. In addition
to the lawsuit, the organization is now calling on President Obama to
close the platform immediately until it can be proven to operate safely,
to order a review of all deepwater platforms in operation, and
to overhaul offshore drilling regulations.

In August 2008, BP contractor Kenneth Abbott notified his superiors
that Atlantis lacked proper and legally-required "as built" final
engineering documents for critical subsea components. He later took his
concerns to the BP Ombudsman's office. According to a letter last week
from Watts to DOI Secretary Ken Salazar, "These critical documents are
necessary for the safe operation and maintenance of the Atlantis Project
and do not exist.  Such documents include "as built" documents for
risers, piping and instrument diagrams (P&IDs), safety shutdown
systems logic (SSS logic) diagrams.

An internal BP email written in August 2008, characterized the
situation as having the potential for "catastrophic Operator errors."

In February 2010, BP sent a letter to Congress saying that it only
learned of the allegations recently and claimed they were
unsubstantiated. Recently surfaced BP documents would later reveal,
however, that BP had known about these problems for years.

"We believe that the Deepwater Horizon spill was not a freak
accident," said Hauter. "We only know about Atlantis. But are there
other platforms in the Gulf operating under similar unsafe
circumstances? The public deserves to know."

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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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