Three offshore oil companies and three individuals have been charged for their roles in causing the November 2012 explosion of an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico that killed three workers, injured several others, and created an oil spill.
Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations and Grand Isle Shipyards Inc. were 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. and employees Don Moss, 46, of Texas; Curtis Dantin, 50, of Louisiana; and Christopher Srubar, 40, of Louisiana have each been charged with felony violations of the OCSLA and the Clean Water Act.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the defendants were responsible in various capacities for ignoring key safety rules designed to prevent highly volatile energy platforms from exploding.
OCSLA and federal regulations govern how “hot work” — welding and activities that generate heat or sparks — on offshore oil rigs can be performed in U.S. waters. Because this kind of work is so hazardous to perform a rig where highly flammable oil and gases are present, regulations mandate the specific precautions that rig workers must take before such work can begin.
Pipes and tanks that contain oil or gas, for example, must be purged and isolated from the work, and gas detectors and devices that prevent gas from traveling through pipes must be used.
According to the indictment, these critical safety procedures were never performed, so the hot work commenced in the presence of highly flammable gases, resulting in the fatal blast.
“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 case was jointly investigated by the U.S. Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigations Division. A trial date for the defendants has not been set.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice