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NEW YORK -- BP's other troubled offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico has been cleared to operate despite some problems in documentation, according to a long-delayed government report obtained by The Huffington Post. The report found no evidence of unsafe conditions on the project.
Though BP failed to file with regulators "certain drawings depicting changes to a number of production safety system components" for the massive Atlantis rig, the government agency charged with overseeing offshore oil drilling "found no grounds for suspending the operations of the Atlantis ... or revoking BP's designation as an operator," according to the report by the Bureau for Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The bureau is the successor to the troubled Minerals Management Service, which failed to properly oversee BP's Deepwater Horizon, the rig that exploded last April in the Gulf, killing 11 workers and spilling about 5 million barrel of oil -- the worst such oil spill in history.
Last year, a whistleblower first made public his claims about serious mismanagement on the massive Atlantis rig -- that it was operating with incomplete and inaccurate engineering documents. The new report dismissed those claims, prompting a tough response from Kenneth Abbott, a former subcontractor on the Atlantis, whose whistleblower lawsuit against BP is pending in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas.
Abbott's attorney emailed this statement:
I'm disappointed but not really surprised. My whole experience with the agency has been that their first job is to protect themselves, and then the oil companies. They may have changed their name, but not their way of operating. I'm certainly not giving up. I entered this fight to help prevent another catastrophe in the Gulf and that's still my mission.
Last year, Abbott's complaints were substantiated by BP's own investigation, in which it commissioned an independent firm to assess the claims. One official warned that the problems with documentation could "lead to catastrophic operator error," according to records and interviews in the report.
Last February, two months before the Deepwater Horizon spill, 19 members of Congress called on the agency that oversees offshore oil drilling to investigate Abbott's complaints about the Atlantis, which is stationed in 7,070 feet of water roughly 150 miles south of New Orleans. BP's response at the time was that the allegations were "without any substance."
The new report comes on the heels of multiple denials of problems by BP officials. "As CEO Tony Hayward constantly makes clear, safe and reliable operations are his number 1 priority for BP and the company has a very strong record of safe and reliable operations in the Gulf of Mexico," a company spokesman said. "It is completely erroneous to suggest that the minor internal process issue we identified and immediately amended last year on the Atlantis platform suggests anything different."
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