Investigation Into BP's Other Big Gulf Operation Still Not Done

| Tue Sep. 7, 2010 12:00 PM EDT

Even before the Deepwater Horizon exploded and dumped 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, environmental advocates and 19 members of Congress were calling on the Department of Interior to investigate BP's other major Gulf operation, the Atlantis, an oil platform 124 miles off the Louisiana coast. In 2008, a whistle-blowing contractor claimed the platform posed a significant safety threat and should be shut down and inspected. But despite that red flag and the greater level of attention to potential disasters in the Gulf, the Atlantis is still up and running.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (formerly the Minerals Management Service) promised to conduct an audit of the Atlantis and issue a report by the end of May. In June, the agency said that response had been delayed due to the Gulf disaster. Now BOEM says that it needs more time to evaluate the platform, and won't have a final report until Oct. 15.

BOEM head Michael Bromwich outlined the delay in a recent letter to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.):

Given the sheer volume of BP documents, this was a lengthy and complex review process. During this review, the BOEM team examined the process that BP went through to bring the Atlantis Project to production, including the documentation involved in that process. BOEM has determined that an extensive review is necessary to complete the review of the required engineering drawings for Atlantis that you directed. BOEM therefore requested specified documents from BP, and has recently received them. Once the team completes its review of these documents, we anticipate providing you a final report of BOEM's investigation, which will include an explanation of BOEM's regulations governing engineering documents and its findings regarding BP's compliance with these rules with respect to BP's Atlantis.

It's interesting that Bromwich notes that a BOEM investigative team was "onsite in BPs Houston office when the Deepwater Horizon incident occurred." But it's now been six months since Grijalva and his colleagues first requested an investigation of the Atlantis. The platform has continued production the entire time, even as it became clear that BP's Gulf operations have run roughshod over environmental and safety regulations. It's about time the federal government actually prove that it's done due diligence in ensuring that this platform is safe.