Food & Water Watch Asks Federal Court to Order BP to Shut Down One of World’s Largest Oil and Gas Platforms

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467;
drakestraw (at) fwwatch.org

Food & Water Watch Asks Federal Court to Order BP to Shut Down One of World’s Largest Oil and Gas Platforms

HOUSTON, TX -  The national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch today
filed its long awaited lawsuit against BP in federal court for violating
a number of federal laws in the operation of the BP Atlantis oil and
gas platform, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

“We have evidence that Atlantis is unsafe and is in danger of
creating an even worse spill than the one caused by the Deepwater
Horizon explosion,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food
& Water Watch. “Tony Hayward’s failure to be forthcoming when
Congress questioned him about Atlantis and BP’s inconsistent statements
over the last year are an indication that they are hiding the dangerous
truth about Atlantis.”

In the suit, Food & Water Watch and
former-company-contractor-turned-whistleblower Kenneth Abbott allege
that BP began producing oil and gas at its Atlantis facility without
having, and then maintaining, a large percentage of critical engineering
documents that are needed for the facility to operate safely. The
company’s document deficiencies violate its lease agreements as well as a
number of government regulations mandating that the company have, and
in some cases submit, such documents to get federal government approval
and third-party safety verification of the facility, and for it to start
and continue production under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

The suit alleges that the violations are flagrant and “present an
imminent risk of damage to the environment in and surrounding the Gulf
of Mexico, and to the general public health,” and asks for the court to
order BP to cease all production operations at the BP Atlantis Project,
unless and until BP demonstrates that it is in full compliance with the
law.

“Since federal regulators have continuously dragged their feet in the
investigation of Atlantis, and BP has refused to take any corrective
action, we now are taking this fight to the courts,” Hauter said. “The
platform must be shut down until proven safe.”

In light of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and resulting
damages, 34 legislators nationally have called for the shut down of BP
Atlantis until it can be proven safe, fearing an even more catastrophic
accident. While the Minerals Management Service (MMS—now the Bureau of
Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE) has known
about the problem since April 2009 and has claimed an ongoing
investigation, it has yet to complete it. Recently, it said it would not
complete its investigation until mid-October 2010, even though experts
contend that determining BP’s compliance with the law could take a mere
matter of days.

In May 2010, Food & Water Watch sued the MMS for its failed
oversight of the Atlantis facility. The organization was forced to
withdraw the case when BP intervened a month later, contending that the
company should have received official notice of the alleged violations.
Food & Water Watch fired back in July 2010, giving the BP and the
MMS official notice of its intent to sue. Federal law required the
organization to wait 60 days after notice is given to allow BP and the
agency to correct their behavior. Neither party responded.

The organization has since decided to focus its legal efforts solely
on BP. The organization brought its suit by amending it to an existing
lawsuit that whistleblower Kenneth Abbott brought against BP in 2009 for
essentially the same violations of the law, saying that BP violated the
federal False Claims Act when it illegally certified it was in
compliance with all environmental and safety regulations.

Atlantis is located 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana, drilling at
a depth of 7,000 feet. Last March, Mr. Abbott reported to the
authorities that Atlantis has been operating without a large percentage
of the engineer-approved documents needed for it to operate safely. BP
management has even noted that an accident resulting from “catastrophic
Operator errors” could occur on Atlantis due to its missing documents.

Food & Water Watch has been working with Mr. Abbott since last July to bring Atlantis’s possible safety risk to light.

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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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