"Ultimately the question is, are the Gulf of Mexico and the operators on the Atlantis safe? Do they have accurate blueprints to work from or not?" -- Kenneth Abbott
Houston, TX (PRWEB) March 17, 2011
A federal judge in Houston has denied a motion by BP to dismiss a whistle-blower lawsuit claiming ongoing safety violations at BP's Atlantis facility in the Gulf of Mexico and asking that it be shut down, according to attorneys in the case.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt issued the ruling March 15. The action allows the lawsuit to proceed to the discovery phase, the lawyers said.
“The ruling clears the way to get to the core of what we’re asking BP to do, which is comply with federal requirements that were in place when they started production and that are in place today. Ultimately the question is, are the Gulf of Mexico and the operators on the Atlantis safe? Do they have accurate blueprints to work from or not? “said Kenneth Abbott, of Houston, who brought the suit. Consumer safety group Food & Water Watch is also a plaintiff in the suit.
Abbott, a former BP subcontractor on Atlantis, claims subsea structures lack critical and required engineering documentation, which could create a disaster even worse than Deepwater Horizon. Among other things, he asks that the facility be shut down until BP can bring all engineering drawings, which are used to develop safety protocols and procedures, into compliance with federal regulations.
The government requires that companies have certified, compliant engineering documents in place as a condition of starting production, according to the law suit.
In his ruling, Judge Hoyt dismissed a key BP argument that it did not need federal regulatory approval to begin oil production on Atlantis because it already had been granted a drilling lease.
“BP’s right to extract oil and gas . . . is predicated upon its compliance with its leases’ contractual provisions.” the Judge wrote. “Applicable regulations demand that production equipment be designed by qualified engineers, meet specified engineering requirements, and include ’as built’ documentation upon which others can rely in, for example, times of disaster.”
Abbott filed his lawsuit against the U.S. Interior Department under the False Claims Act in May of 2008. The suit was refiled in April of 2009, with BP entities as the only defendants. The cause number is H-09-1193 in U.S. District Court, Southern District, Houston Division.
Attorneys for Abbott are ; Mikal Watts and Christopher Goodpastor, Watts Guerra Craft, San Antonio, TX; David Perry and Rene Haas, Perry & Haas, Corpus Christi, TX and Edward Mallett, Mallett & Saper, Houston, TX.