WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–U.S. investigators said Friday that problems with engineering documents on a BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) production platform in the Gulf of Mexico didn’t pose a safety risk and said the company won’t face civil penalties.
The findings marked the end of an investigation that stemmed from an April 2009 suit, in which a BP contractor alleged the company couldn’t safely operate its Atlantis platform because it didn’t have thousands of necessary engineering documents.
Investigators said that while BP labeled the engineering documents in a “confusing” way and some documents were missing the required stamps and signatures, those conditions didn’t create “specific unsafe conditions” on the platform. They said personnel on the rig had access to relevant safety information.
“Although we found significant problems with the way BP labeled and maintained its engineering drawings and related documents, we found the most serious allegations to be without merit,” Michael Bromwich, head of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said in a statement.
BP is still facing separate litigation on the issue. Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group, said Friday it will continue to pursue a lawsuit that asks a federal judge to shut down the Atlantis platform because of allegedly flawed documentation.
Zach Corrigan, a senior staff attorney for Food and Watch Watch, likened the incomplete documents to an “owner’s manual” that hadn’t been finalized before the platform started operating. He said an audit was necessary to prove the engineering drawings represented actual conditions on Atlantis, but federal investigators hadn’t conducted one.
“Their evaluation of the documents and the evaluation of the facility was woefully deficient,” Corrigan said. After an explosion and subsequent oil spill at a BP-leased drilling rig last year, U.S. regulators have reorganized, aiming to separate the responsibility of safety oversight from the business of collecting royalties from offshore oil production.
The reaction to Friday’s report illustrated the challenges facing Bromwich’s agency, which is enforcing safety rules and reviewing permits for new wells. While the agency is under intense pressure from the oil industry to issue more drilling permits, it is also taking heat from environmentalists who say it is not doing enough to ensure safety.
“Bromwich had promised reforms,” Corrigan said. “This report (Friday) was their first test and they failed.”
A BP spokesman said the company hadn’t yet reviewed the investigation report released Friday.
“Throughout this process, BP contributed its full cooperation with the agency investigation, maintaining our belief that Atlantis is, and at all times has been, safe and fit for service,” BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said in an email.
-By Ryan Tracy, Dow Jones Newswires
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