Oil Industry Watchdogs: BP’s Other Major Production Platform in Gulf Is a “Ticking Time Bomb”


Mother Jones magazine has one of the strongest arguments to date for re-installing a moratorium on deep-water oil drilling, documenting a whistleblower case that began before the BP spill and illustrates the ongoing lack of meaningful regulation.

The MJ report notes that in lifting the offshore ban, “[Interior Secretary] Salazar didn’t mention BP’s other major oil production platform in the Gulf, the one that watchdogs have called a ‘ticking time bomb’ ignored by federal regulators. The BP Atlantis platform is operating in deeper waters and is extracting more oil from the Gulf each day than the Deepwater Horizon well leaked, but neither the company nor the feds have proved it is safe.”

According to MJ, “the Atlantis platform produces 200,000 barrels of oil daily, more than triple the amount of oil that spilled from the Horizon site each day.”

After a whistleblower surfaced, a group of 19 Democratic House members led by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva got involved, sending a letter to regulators at the MMS (you remember the Minerals Management Service that was re-branded as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE)… somebody had to go, so they “fired” the name).

MJ reports that when the Deepwater Horizon spill hit the fan, not surprisingly, Rep. Grijalva and his colleagues asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to call for “an immediate shutdown” of the Atlantis platform “until it can be shown that this platform is operating safely.” The Interior Department rejected that request but said BOEMRE’s investigation would “determine whether any enforcement action…is appropriate.”

How has the re-branded, re-dedicated agency performed in this new age of regulation? Well, according to MJ, the “…report has been delayed several times and is now five months overdue. So far, BP and BOEMRE have only provided 412 of more than 7,000 documents.”

Even more troubling, the agency is flatly refusing to provide some documents to lawmakers. So you need look no further to realize that federal regulators have learned little from the Deepwater Horizon spill, and things are back to business as usual in the halls of the old Minerals Management Service.

Read the unsettling, and heavily documented, Mother Jones report here: http://motherjones.com/environment/2010/10/bp-atlantis-platform-ticking-time-bomb

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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