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Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter

Posted: June 11, 2010 10:34 AM

Time to Clean House at Department of the Interior

What's Your Reaction:

"If we find they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing, we'll push them out of the way appropriately."

These words were spoken by U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar in a briefing to reporters last month regarding BP's inability to stop oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico 33 days into the disaster.

Now, 52 days into the disaster, BP still hasn't done their job. Secretary Salazar hasn't done his, either.

Salazar's inability to oversee an end to the disaster despite his "boot on the neck of BP" rhetoric, and confusing statements about the offshore drilling moratorium are unsettling. But what is unconscionable is that the DOI -- and its Minerals Management Service, in particular -- continues NOT to regulate disasters waiting in the wings.

We know of one such disaster waiting to happen in the Gulf that continues to operate--the BP Atlantis, which whistle-blower, Kenneth Abbott, has told officials lacks a stunning number of engineer-approved safety documentation, and that BP managers themselves have acknowledged internally could cause "catastrophic Operator errors".

If there were another rig that needed urgent attention, BP Atlantis is it. Over 25 members of Congress have called on Salazar to investigate Atlantis and shut it down until it could be shown to be operating safely. And, we know that there have been concerns voiced by not only Abbott, but also by other BP employees, about Atlantis. In an email from BP's Ombudsman's office, Abbott was told that:

Your concerns about the project not following the terms of its own Project Execution Plan were substantiated....The concerns that you expressed about the status of the drawings upgrade project were not unique to you. It was a challenge to the Project and of concern to others who raised the concern before you worked there, while you were there, and after you left.

In an interview with the AP, Stanley Sporkin, the BP Ombudsman, noted the whistleblower's allegation "was substantiated, and that's it."

If members of Congress, multiple BP employees, and the company's own Ombudsman have concerns over the safety on the Atlantis rig, why doesn't Salazar? There's only one thing left for Salazar to do if he isn't willing to shut down this platform immediately: resign.

There is something else that Secretary Salazar has said about the MMS (days before the resignation of Elizabeth Birnbaum as head of the agency): "We need to clean up that house."

Mr. Salazar, we couldn't agree with you more. But the housecleaning isn't done. It's time for you to step aside and let someone else regulate these deep-water platforms -- someone who is willing to get the job done.

For more information about BP Atlantis, visit www.spillthetruth.org.