NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The United States says Transocean has blown off its demands for safety audits of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, whose explosion set off the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The government demands enforcement of three subpoenas it issued – in August, September and October – demanding 12 years of records from Transocean. Transocean has refused to produce documents from 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
In its federal complaint, the government demands “All documents relating to the last ISM audit report for all Transocean vessels that operated in the Gulf of Mexico at the time of the casualty” as well as “The external audit(s) of the Safety Management System (ISM), including but not limited to an initial audit in 1998, two 5-year recertification audits in 2003 and 2008, and four interim audits in 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010.”
The Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. The government demands, in brief, that the company turn over all of the rig’s safety audits from the past 12 years.
“On October 21, 2010 the Joint Board of Investigation issued a subpoena duces tecum to Transocean for production of documents,” according to complaint.
That was the federal government’s third request for documentation. Transocean refused to respond to the first two.
In a footnote, the complaint states: “The subpoena issued on October 21, 2010 is not the first subpoena issued by the Joint Board of Investigation seeking the requested documents. The board issued the first subpoena on August 4 and re-issued the subpoena on September 2, 2010. Transocean responded to both of these subpoenas with objections and produced no documents. The most recent subpoena was issued on October 21, 2010 and is the subpoena at issue in the instant proceeding.”
The Oct. 21 subpoena “was issued in furtherance of the joint investigation which was convened to determine, inter alia, the cause or causes of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, fire, explosion, and oil spill in order to prevent future accidents, whether an act of misconduct, incompetence, negligence, unskillfulness, or willful violation of the law committed by any person contributed to the cause or causes of the casualty, including the deaths involved in the casualty, and whether there is a need for new laws or regulations, or amendment or repeal of existing laws or regulations, to prevent the recurrence of the casualty,” according to the complaint.
“The documents requested by the subpoena issued to Transocean are relevant to this inquiry and the request is reasonable and not unduly burdensome,” the complaint adds.
“After several discussions between counsel for the Joint Board of Investigation and Transocean regarding the board’s need for responsive documents, Transocean responded to the subpoena in correspondence dated November 4, 2010.”
In its Nov. 4 response, Transocean responded to some requests, but refused to provide documents on “all documents relating to the ISM audit report for all Transocean vessels that operated in the Gulf of Mexico at the time of the casualty, and the external audit(s) of the Safety Management System (ISM was implemented 12 years ago; including but not limited to, an initial audit in 1998, two 5-year recertification audits in 2003 and 2008, and four interim audits in 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010,” according to the complaint. (Parentheses in complaint.)
“Transocean objected and produced no documents” to those requests, the government says.
It adds: “The subpoena is fully authorized by law and in all other respects is proper and the United States is entitled to summary enforcements by this court.”
The United States demands the documents. And “To the extent that Transocean claims that any documents described in the subpoena are privileged, order that Transocean submit to the board by a date certain a privilege log describing each document over which it claims a privilege.”
All three subpoenas were issued by the United States of America through the Joint Board of Investigation of the United States Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, after an April 27 congressional order for the Coast Guard and Department of the Interior to conduct a joint investigation into the circumstances of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
The next hearings conducted for the joint investigation are scheduled for Dec. 7-9. The complaint was filed by assistant U.S. attorney Sharon Smith in New Orleans.