Transocean Can't Stall Subpoena Response
HOUSTON (CN) - Transocean Deepwater Drilling cannot put off responding to subpoenas in a federal investigation of chemicals released during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal refused to stay her final judgment calling for Transocean to comply with five subpoenas issued by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board about the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
The Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers.
The chemical safety board, established by Congress in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, examines accidental releases of hazardous substances that lead to serious injury, death or substantial property damage.
The government sued to enforce the administrative subpoenas in October 2011. Rosenthal stayed the petition until a multidistrict litigation panel ruled on whether to transfer the case to Louisiana.
Last February Rosenthal lifted the stay, and litigation proceeded in the Southern District of Texas.
Transocean moved to dismiss the government's petition or quash the subpoenas, challenging the board's jurisdiction to issue them.
Rosenthal denied the motion in late March, just weeks before issuing her final judgment.
The rig owner asked Rosenthal to stay her judgment pending its appeal to the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit. It argued that it did not have to comply with the subpoenas "unless and until the appellate court says it must," according to the district court's ruling.
"That argument is not enough to justify a stay," Rosenthal wrote in her 10-page order.
"The government argues that continued delay to the [board's] safety investigation would cause additional injury to the government's effort to complete its safety investigation, and thus additional injury to the public," she wrote. "The nature of the investigation into aspects of public and worker safety bolsters the link between the [board's] interests and the public interest.
"Transocean argues that there is a countervailing interest in preventing appeals from becoming moot and to resolve complex legal issues of public significance. But denying the stay does not moot the jurisdictional issues Transocean has raised," she added.
"On balance, this court cannot conclude that the public interest would be better served through a stay than through compliance with the final judgment enforcing the administrative subpoenas," Rosenthal concluded.