Transocean accused of not honoring spill subpoenas

The Justice Department filed a civil action against offshore driller Transocean Wednesday to enforce subpoenas issued by a federal board investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident.

The 25-page complaint (see it below) filed by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of Houston alleges that Transocean failed to respond sufficiently to 38 of 39 specific demands contained in five subpoenas from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. The subpoenas were issued between Nov. 24, 2010, and April 7, 2011.

The CSB is a federal agency charged by Congress with investigating the causes of industrial accidents and developing safety recommendations. It’s better known for looking at land-based industrial facilities, particularly its study of the deadly blast at BP’s Texas City refinery in 2005 that killed 15.

The CSB was asked to take a look at the Deepwater Horizon accident by several members of Congress, but has had repeated problems getting access to information. CSB officials were shut-out from some of the testing of the Macondo well’s blowout preventer (they were later given access to the data) and attorneys involved in the case questioned the CSB’s authority even to conduct an investigation.

A spokesman for Transocean referred to a July 2011 letter the company wrote to the Department of Justice regarding the CSB subpoenas, which says only the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of the Interior have the authority to investigate offshore accidents and spills.

He also noted that much of the information the CSB seeks has been produced as part of the massive collection of civil lawsuits being heard by a federal judge in New Orleans, and that much of it is also available on the web site of the Coast Guard/Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement joint spill investigation team.

DOJ Filing on CSB Subpoenas to To