A whistleblower filed suit Monday to force the federal government to halt operations at another massive BP oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, alleging that BP never reviewed critical engineering designs for the operation and is therefore risking another catastrophic accident that could “dwarf” the company’s Deepwater Horizon spill. Former project control supervisor Kenneth Abbott alleged that BP never confirmed systems and equipment on the Atlantis platform were built as intended and didn’t properly file the documentation that functions as an instruction manual for rig workers in the case of a blowout or other emergency.
When regulators at the Minerals Management Service had concerns about the safety equipment for offshore oil rigs, the agency did not impose stronger regulations and instead allowed industry to police itself, according to two pieces in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal today. The agency has been scrutinized for its role in the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly for failing to follow up on concerns it had — several years before the BP incident — about equipment that should have stopped the spill but did not.
The fines that oil companies have paid for offshore drilling safety violations are dwarfed by their profits. Fines against BP have been the equivalent of a rounding error. From 1998 through 2007, BP paid less than $580,000 in penalties for its 12 safety violations. Last quarter, the British oil giant turned a profit of $5.6 billion.