As environmentalists grow increasingly alarmed by the possibility that the massive oil spill in the Gulf could be moved by currents as far south at the Florida Keys and as far west as Houston, new details are emerging that raise even more questions about the safety of BP's off-shore drilling facilities.
Yesterday, a federal judge was asked to shut down Atlantis, one of the oil giant's many rigs, located only 100 miles from the Deepwater Horizon facility and 150 miles south of New Orleans. According to a former BP subcontractor, Kenneth Abbott, Atlantis was operating with incomplete and inaccurate engineering documents. A 2008 email from Abbott revealed a BP manager warning about incomplete design specifications being given to platform operators in violation of federal law and BP's own safety regulations. Abbott claims that he was fired when he tried to reveal this information to BP officials.
In March 2009 Abbott tried to warn Minerals Management Service of these violations but no actions were taken. Concerned about a potential catastrophic event, members of congress sent a letter to Minerals Management Service in February of this year delineating its concerns about the agency's lack of investigation into BP's safety practices.
The Associated Press reports that an independent firm hired by BP had found that the oil giant was violating its own policies by not having completed engineering documents aboard the Atlantis when it began operations in 2007. Yet despite its own internal investigation, BP stated in a letter to Congress earlier this year that Atlantis was complying with all federal regulations.
After 27 days, BP has still not been able to contain the oil spill at its Deepwater Horizon facility and it has been estimated that approximately 94,000 barrels or 3.9 million gallons have spilled into the Gulf since the original explosion on April 20th. This weekend, BP stated that it had a breakthrough and is now capturing 1,000 barrels of oil a day -- about 20% of the amount spilling into our seas.
As news continues to develop regarding BP's considerable safety violations and both BP and Transocean's attempt to limit their liability for this incident, neither party has taken responsibility. President Barack Obama chastised both Transocean and BP for the "ridiculous spectacle" of blaming each other for the explosion. And this weekend, members of the White House including U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sent a letter to Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP stating that, "the public has a right to a clear understanding of BP's commitment to redress all of the damage that has occurred or that will occur. Therefore, in the event that our understanding is inaccurate, we request immediate public clarification of BP's true intentions."
In the midst of this environmental and economic catastrophe, one thing remains clear, BP and Transocean must be held accountable for their actions.