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BP Oil Spill Panel Says Transocean Impeding Access to Documents, Witnesses

Oct 6, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
Oil Spill Panel

Company Refuses To Submit Safety Audits

A panel investigating the BP oil spill says that Transocean Ltd. is refusing to hand over safety audits of all its Gulf of Mexico drilling rigs. Transocean has called the request burdensome, but the co-chair of the U.S. Coast Guard and Interior Department joint investigation team says its request amounts to 33 reports that are three to five pages each in length.

Transocean was the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which it leased to BP. The rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 men and spawning the worst oil spill in US history.

The joint investigative panel is holding its fifth week of hearings into the disaster. During a hearing in Metairie, Louisiana yesterday, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Hung Nguyen complained that he had been trying to get copies of the safety audits for two months. Transocean refused both an August 4 request and a September 2 request.

“Transocean has not been responsive to the requests of this joint board,” Nguyen said. “I have significant concerns with the safety-culture aspect” related to the disaster.

Testify About Safety

Nguyen said the panel also has been unable to get a specific Transocean manager to come in and testify about safety. Another panel member, Captain Mark Higgins, also complained that Transocean had “thwarted” access to some witnesses.

In an emailed statement to Bloomberg News, Transocean disputed those charges. “Transocean has produced more witnesses than any other party involved in this investigation and significant volumes of documentary evidence, including audit records of the Deepwater Horizon,” the statement said. “Any assertion to the contrary is simply not correct.”

During yesterday’s hearing, Transocean’s attorney said the company has acted in good faith and produced everything it believes it should, adding that the panel could go to court to enforce the subpoenas it issued for the documents.

As to witnesses testifying, the attorney said their availability was not in Transocean’s control.

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