Criminal Charges Filed Over 2012 Platform Fire in Gulf of Mexico

GULF OF MEXICO - Commercial vessels extinguish a platform fire on board West Delta 32 approximately 20 miles offshore Grand Isle, La., in the Gulf of Mexico, Nov. 16, 2012. First responders medevaced nine of the platform's 22 personnel to nearby rigs. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Commercial vessels extinguish a platform fire on board West Delta 32 approximately 20 miles offshore Grand Isle, La., in the Gulf of Mexico, Nov. 16, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Three companies and three individuals have been hit with criminal charges related to a November 2012 explosion on an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico that resulted in the death of three workers, the injury of others and an oil spill, the U.S. Justice Dept. has announced.

The defendants listed in case are Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC, Grand Isle Shipyards Inc., Wood Group PSN Inc., as well as Don Moss, 46, of Groves, Texas, Curtis Dantin, 50, of Cut-Off, Louisiana, and Christopher Srubar, 40, of Destrehan, Louisiana.

According to the indictment, the defendants were involved in different capacities while construction work was being done of the West Delta 32 platform when it exploded.

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC and Grand Isle Shipyards Inc. are charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter, eight counts of failing to follow proper safety practices under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and one count of violating the Clean Water Act. Wood Group PSN Inc., Moss, Dantin and Srubar are charged with felony violations of OCSLA and the Clean Water Act.

“Workers lives can depend on their employer’s faithfulness to the law, not least of all those working in oil and gas production where safety must be a paramount concern,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and natural Resources Division. “The Justice Department is committed to enforcing the nation’s bedrock environmental laws that protect the environment, and the health and safety of all Americans.”

“The energy sector represents a vital industry in this region, but its work must be performed responsibly,” stated U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “Today’s indictment underscores that we will hold accountable all parties – both businesses and individuals – whose criminality jeopardizes our environment or risks the loss of life.”

“Developing domestic sources of energy must be done responsibly and safely,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dan Pflaster of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Program in Louisiana. “EPA will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to hold companies fully accountable for illegal conduct and to assure compliance with laws that protect the public and the delicate Gulf Coast ecosystem from harm.”

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and federal regulations govern “hot work” carried out on oil production platforms in U.S. waters. Because this work can be hazardous and cause explosions, regulations mandate specific precautions that must be taken before the work can commence. For instance, before hot work can be performed, pipes and tanks that had contained hydrocarbons must be isolated from the work or purged of hydrocarbons. Gas detectors and devices used to prevent gas from travelling through pipes must be used. According to the Indictment, these safety precautions were not followed and an explosion causing the deaths of three men and a spill resulted.

The case is being prosecuted by Emily Greenfield of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana and by Kenneth E. Nelson of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice.