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Food & Water Watch Asks Federal Court to Order BP to Shut Down One of World’s Largest Oil and Gas Platforms
HOUSTON, TX - September 10 - 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.