Transocean asks judge to release federal documents on Deepwater Horizon

Transocean has asked a New Orleans federal court to make public 21 documents regarding the Deepwater Horizon disaster, arguing that its claim of a confidentiality privilege are invalid, according to a recent filing.

The Swiss-based deep-water drilling services company has challenged the U.S. government ‘confidentiality promise’ privilege to keep secret 21 documents containing statements provided to the Oil Spill Commission, asserting that the federal government is not justified in making these statements immune from discovery.

“Transocean continues to object to the confidentiality promise privilege claims that the United States has not agreed to withdraw or otherwise limit,” Transocean lawyers said in the filing. “Transocean believes the confidentiality promise privilege does not apply to the Oil Spill Commission’s investigation, and even if it does, the United States has waived its protection.”

The request is part of a larger battle for information over the government’s role in decisions made after the Macondo well exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Justice Department released 64 documents in the beginning of June in response to an earlier Transocean challenge that it was invalidly withholding 314 documents under a confidentiality claim. Transocean has said that many of these documents were produced only in redacted form.

The United States has argued that precedents set in military air crash safety investigations should also be applied for the Deepwater Horizon investigation.

Transocean lawyers have also asserted that the Justice Department has not applied the same level of confidentiality for statements made by BP and that in doing so, it has waived its confidentiality protection.

“Curiously, the United States released all ‘CP’ documents containing BP or Woods Hole statements, but continues to withhold the majority of documents containing statements of its own employees and contractors made under the same ‘assurances of confidentiality’,” the filing stated.