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BP Whistle-Blower Says Gulf Atlantis Facility Remains Unsafe

BP Plc’s Atlantis facility remains unsafe, according to a whistle-blower who said in a court filing that the company’s second-largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico is operating under permits BP obtained by lying to regulators.

“Immediate court action is needed to remedy unsafe conditions on Atlantis,” Mikal Watts, an attorney for former BP contractor Kenneth Abbott, said in papers filed yesterday seeking a trial date in federal court in Houston, where the case has been pending since 2009.

“BP has falsely certified compliance with critical environmental and safety regulations” to pump billions of dollars in petroleum from the offshore facility, the lawyer said. “BP’s corporate policy and practice is to buy its way out after it is caught and then do it again.”

Abbott sued London-based BP in 2009 on behalf of the U.S. government, seeking to get a judge to shut down Atlantis, which produces about 120,000 barrels of oil daily, according to court records. Abbott said the judge should appoint a special master to oversee measures to bring the offshore facility into compliance with safety and environmental laws.

He also seeks $7.8 billion from BP, which he estimated in court papers is the value of oil and gas the company has pumped through Atlantis since it came online in 2007.

Atlantis ‘Safe’

BP said in its own court filings that Atlantis is safe and that Abbott’s complaints were dismissed by federal regulators who investigated the issue after the April 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon. The Atlantis production platform is located about 100 miles (161 kilometers) south of where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig disaster occurred.

“We fundamentally disagree with plaintiffs’ claims in this lawsuit,” Daren Beaudo, a BP spokesman, said yesterday in an e-mail. “The Department of Interior conducted a thorough investigation of Mr. Abbott’s lawsuit allegations and concluded that Mr. Abbott’s allegations are unfounded and the Atlantis platform is safe and should continue to be operated by BP.”

The U.S. Interior Department in March 2011 said that BP’s deficiencies in documentation for the platform posed no “serious” safety risks, following its investigation of Abbott’s allegations.

Lawyers for BP and Abbott will meet before U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes on March 19. Abbott’s lawyers said they will seek an immediate hearing on safety issues.

The case is United States of America Ex Rel. Abbott v. BP Exploration and Production Inc., 4:09-cv-01193, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).

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