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Oil-Spill Subpoenas Stayed – for a While

HOUSTON (CN) - Proceedings in the United States' action to enforce subpoenas against Transocean Deepwater Drilling, in a federal investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, are on hold until the multidistrict litigation panel decides whether to transfer the case.

The United States filed a petition on Oct. 12, to enforce administrative subpoenas issued to Transocean by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

The board issued three records subpoenas and two interrogatory subpoenas as part of its investigation of the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 and set off the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

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.

Rather than looking into the marine spill, the board is concerned with the effect of the Deepwater Horizon explosion on the ambient air.

The United States says Transocean often gave inadequate responses, when it gave any response at all, to the five subpoenas, prompting it to file the federal petition.

Transocean sought to expedite consideration and stay the petition to enforce the subpoenas until the multidistrict litigation (MDL) panel that has been handling Deepwater Horizon issues decides whether it should grant Uncle Sam's motion to vacate an order for conditional transfer of the petition to the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Transocean says that without the stay it might otherwise have to deal with duplicative discovery and proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal granted both of Transocean's motions on Monday, opting to await a decision by the MDL panel.

"The MDL Panel has set a very efficient briefing schedule on the motion to vacate," Rosenthal wrote. "It is reasonable to anticipate that the delay will be short."

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