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Topics: BP Whistle-Blower Says Gulf Atlantis Facility Remains Unsafe, P Atlantis whistleblower alleges imminent safety threat for first time, Judge wants 'minimum of sealed records' in BP platform case, BP's Settlement With Plaintiffs Addresses Unpaid Medical Claims, BP Settlement Lacks Enthusiasm Along Gulf Coast, BP oil spill trial settlement proposal could be filed in New Orleans federal court by April 16, BP says investigating 'bribery' claim, BP Refinery Carson, Calif., Has Valve Leak In Addition To Planned Flaring, BP reports unit trip at Whiting, IN refinery

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Whistleblower, Ken Abbot, is alleging that BP's gargantuan Atlantis rig is currently operating unsafely and that BP lied to regulators in order to continue operations. Abbot is asking for immediate court action to oversee the rig's operations to bring it into regulatory compliance.

The Department of Interior has demonstrated itself to be an industry captive agency so any views they might have on the safety, or lack thereof, on the Atlantis should be taken with large tonnage of salt.

One hopes that Abbot prevails in today's hearing. Both the President's National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon as well as the National Academy of Engineering reports have pointed out that our current regulatory system is seriously broken. Having independent court oversight for the Atlantis would be a boost for safety on that particular rig but is far, far short of any type of desperately needed regulatory fix.

BP Whistle-Blower Says Gulf Atlantis Facility Remains Unsafe - Bloomberg

Mar 15, 2012 11:01 PM CT

BP Plc (BP)’s Atlantis facility remains unsafe, according to a whistle-blower who said in a court filing that the company’s second-largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico is operating under permits BP obtained by lying to regulators.

“Immediate court action is needed to remedy unsafe conditions on Atlantis,” Mikal Watts, an attorney for former BP contractor Kenneth Abbott, said in papers filed yesterday seeking a trial date in federal court in Houston, where the case has been pending since 2009.

“BP has falsely certified compliance with critical environmental and safety regulations” to pump billions of dollars in petroleum from the offshore facility, the lawyer said. “BP’s corporate policy and practice is to buy its way out after it is caught and then do it again.”

Abbott sued London-based BP in 2009 on behalf of the U.S. government, seeking to get a judge to shut down Atlantis, which produces about 120,000 barrels of oil daily, according to court records. Abbott said the judge should appoint a special master to oversee measures to bring the offshore facility into compliance with safety and environmental laws.

“We fundamentally disagree with plaintiffs’ claims in this lawsuit,” Daren Beaudo, a BP spokesman, said yesterday in an e- mail. “The Department of Interior conducted a thorough investigation of Mr. Abbott’s lawsuit allegations and concluded that Mr. Abbott’s allegations are unfounded and the Atlantis platform is safe and should continue to be operated by BP.”

The U.S. Interior Department in March 2011 said that BP’s deficiencies in documentation for the platform posed no “serious” safety risks, following its investigation of Abbott’s allegations.

Lawyers for BP and Abbott will meet before U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes on March 19. Abbott’s lawyers said they will seek an immediate hearing on safety issues.
blockquote>




Whistleblower Ken Abbot's previous allegations about an absence of accurate engineering drawings were confirmed by independent ombudsman, retired federal Judge Stanley Sporkin. Abbot has now claimed for the first time that current conditions aboard the Atlantis remain unsafe and pose an imminent threat.

However, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEMRE), the federal agency who thought things were just fine and dandy on the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo, has proclaimed the Atlantis safe. One wonders how disastrous conditions must have to be for BOEMRE to consider a rig unsafe.

My late uncle was responsible for gathering the parts for Boeing's airplanes which had been grounded for mechanical problems. Grounded airplanes cost the airlines and/or Boeing monstrous piles of money so there was intense pressure to get the planes back in the air ASAP. My uncle would have been utterly horrified at the thought of sending out so much as a single nut or bolt without reviewing the engineering drawings and knowing for an absolute fact that they were accurate.

Commercial airline technology is well-established with proven reliable testing methods for pieces and parts of the planes. Huge rigs like the Atlantis pose a larger risk for the loss of human life and a much, much larger risk than an airplane crash for causing monstrous environmental catastrophes. Offshore drilling rigs are woefully lacking in safeguards similar to the airline industry.

BP Atlantis whistleblower alleges imminent safety threat for first time/a>

Friday, March 16, 2012, 10:30 AM

A whistleblower is alleging for the first time in a years long lawsuit against BP that its massive Atlantis oil platform operation off the Louisiana coast faces present and imminent danger. Kenneth Abbott first complained in 2009 that BP had failed to keep required records of the design of pressure-relief systems and other safety mechanisms onboard the Atlantis.

His lawsuit in Houston drew national attention in the aftermath of the April 2010 blowout of BP's Macondo well near the tip of Louisiana.

Subsequently, the U.S. government joined in some of his claims when an independent reviewer justified many of Abbott's complaints. But BP, and later the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, determined that the lack of safety records did not pose any imminent threat.

Abbott's latest filing in the Houston court this week argues otherwise. It also renews his push for BP to unseal crucial filings in the case.

Abbott served as a BP contractor on Atlantis, a $2 billion oil-and-gas production rig 190 miles south of New Orleans, when he discovered the deficient documentation. He reported to a BP ombudsman in 2009 that the rig didn't maintain required "as-built" drawings of the systems and structures on the rig.

The ombudsman, retired federal Judge Stanley Sporkin, later substantiated Abbott's complaints. Abbott filed suit against BP, contending the lack of drawings made operations unsafe, and against the former U.S. regulatory agency, Minerals Management Service, for failing to enforce its regulations. The idea behind his case got a jolt when President Barack Obama said in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and gulf oil spill that the MMS had a "cozy relationship" with the industry it was supposed to regulate.

The environmental group Food and Water Watch joined in Abbott's lawsuit in Houston, which alleges violations of the False Claims Act and is still awaiting a hearing.

But the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released a report in March 2011 that declared the Atlantis rig safe, in spite of its failure to maintain proper records on board. Food and Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter blasted the regulating agency for blowing a chance to show it had truly broken with its MMS past.

"The federal government dragged its feet on this investigation, and its findings are appalling -- like a doctor's note for a truant student," she said. "They are a weak attempt to cover BP's foul play. After all this time, the public deserves better."

BP has consistently denied any safety problems at Atlantis, calling the drawings "a minor internal process issue," and taking credit for self-reporting and rectifying the deficiencies.




It seems wildly optimistic to think that a judge in the Houston oil patch will be all that unsympathetic to BP wanting to cover up their misdeeds under the cover of proprietary information. Let's hope that Judge Hughes chooses the public interest over BP's.

This article also contains the tidbit that Abbot has asked the court to shut down the Atlantis.

Judge wants 'minimum of sealed records' in BP platform case

Monday, March 19, 2012

Parties to a lawsuit over the safety of BP's Atlantis production platform in the Gulf of Mexico should re-file key documents with an eye toward making them public, a federal judge said Monday.

Former BP contractor Kenneth Abbott alleges in a Houston federal court suit that Atlantis doesn't comply with safety and environmental laws. BP says that it and government regulators believe the facility complies with all rules.

When U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes received the case, numerous documents had already been filed under seal by BP, which said the documents contain proprietary information.

"It seems to me the solution is to strike those and allow the parties to re-file documents without confidential information in them," Hughes said in a hearing Monday morning. "If there are data that one or other parties genuinely believes is essential and the other believes is genuinely proprietary, then we can have a hearing or somehow discuss it."

The Hearst Corp. - parent company of the Houston Chronicle - and Bloomberg News filed briefs in support of unsealing all documents in the case. Hughes questioned Monday whether the news organizations have standing.

Abbott lawyer David Perry said he would welcome an agreement that nothing be filed under seal, but that BP previously hasn't agreed to such an arrangement.

Abbott, a 30-year energy industry veteran, has alleged that BP didn't complete or document almost 90 percent of the required engineering inspections for the Atlantis.

He wants it shut down while a court-appointed special master oversees a review of its compliance.
...




This HuffPo article was reprinted from a local weekly and has the only details I've seen about the health aspects of BP's settlement with the plaintiff's committee.  From what I know of the area I would guess that very few of the people most seriously exposed to toxic effects of BP's black monster had much in the way of health records beforehand and probably have had even less money to access health care after they were exposed.

Our government made an unconscionable decision to not to even bother sending health workers in to the affected areas to do baseline health studies much less provide any health care to victims. The chances seem slim that deserving victims with health problems will either be compensated financially or be provided with adequate health care.

There are no words to describe the depth of BP's evil in forbidding cleanup workers use of adequate respiratory protection nor that of the government in allowing this to happen.

BP's Settlement With Plaintiffs Addresses Unpaid Medical Claims

03/19/2012 2:55 pm
This article first appeared in The Louisiana Weekly March 12, 2012

Gulf residents will have another shot at getting spill-related, medical claims paid following a proposed settlement between BP and plaintiffs, announced in early March. Those that weren't compensated by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility -- set up after the spill to pay victims -- are waiting to learn more about the new system, including its proof of illness requirements. The GCCF paid for bodily injuries from BP's rig explosion nearly two years ago but rejected claims for other spill ailments.

BP and the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee or PSC, representing claimants, are working on a final settlement to present to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans for his approval by mid-April. The agreement divides plaintiffs or claimants into two class actions, one for economic losses and another for medical issues. The settlement, which doesn't cover federal government complaints, is for an uncapped amount but BP estimates it will cost $7.8 billion.
...
Under the settlement, residents along the Gulf Coast can be compensated for a range of spill-related conditions, including respiratory, skin and stomach ailments and headaches.

Tony Buzbee, partner in The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston, represented 19 injured, Deepwater Horizon rig workers, who were all paid by the GCCF for a combined total that exceeded $100 million. "I have a lot of cleanup workers exposed to dispersants, benzene and whatnot, but never tried to get their claims settled with Ken Feinberg," Buzbee said last week. "He told me he'd be happy to look at the claims but needed medical records."

Buzbee continued, saying "I don't know the new particulars of the settlement, but am told they will be more generous and might have a different approach to medical proof. I'm hoping more people will get paid for their ailments in the new process."

According to a March 3 announcement from the PSC, "cleanup workers can submit a claim with a declaration, under penalty of perjury, describing the conditions or symptoms after exposure, even if they did not seek medical treatment at the time of exposure." The statement also said:

"Residents and workers who suffer chronic symptoms or conditions from exposure will be required to submit medical records from the time of exposure and for ongoing medical care. Coastal residents and cleanup workers who experience future manifestation of illness retain the right to sue BP without proof of liability for the spill and exposure."
Fishermen who worked for BP's Vessels of Opportunity Program or VOO, doing oil cleanup from boats, are among those who came into contact with oil and the dispersants used to get rid of it. BP didn't allow VOO workers to wear respirators during cleanup work.

Dr. Mike Robichaux, who treats patients with spill ailments in Raceland, La., said "many of the people who are ill in southeast Louisiana are VOO workers -- largely from Lafourche, Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes. There are also scores of patients from Louisiana and elsewhere who are ill but didn't work directly with toxic chemicals. They were exposed through fumes, sprays, skin contact with contaminated water, and in some cases by eating and drinking contaminated food."

Robichaux said some coastal residents don't have health insurance and didn't see a doctor when their symptoms first appeared -- which was sometimes well after the spill. He worries that claims of at least some of the victims without medical records might be declared ineligible.

Under the proposed settlement, BP has agreed to provide a $105 million grant to establish a five-year Gulf Coast Region Health Outreach Program. Coastal residents, including those who aren't class members in the settlement, will be allowed to participate in the program, which as described so far, will expand primary and mental health care and offer access to environmental health specialists. Some of the planned money will be spent on education about Gulf health issues.

If you have medical symptoms from the spill, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is interviewing cleanup workers and volunteers for a research study. Gulf Coast residents interested in participating can phone 1-855-NIH-GULF or visit www.NIHGulfStudy.org




Click through to listen to the NPR audio interview.

Kim Chauvin is the fifth generation in a family of shrimpers. Toby Dufrene is also a shrimper.

Keith Jones is an attorney who helped work on the settlement. His son, Gordon, was among the 11 killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Without any details it's not even possible to make an educated guess as to whether BP's victims will get anything approaching a fair settlement. However, if past is prologue BP and the lawyers will probably be the only ones do quite nicely for themselves with the victims ending up with the short end of the stick.

BP Settlement Lacks Enthusiasm Along Gulf Coast

March 12, 2012
Residents of the Gulf Coast are warily evaluating the BP settlement deal in the Deepwater Horizon case. Some were hurt during clean-up of the oil spill, others lost their businesses and still others lost family in the rig explosion. But they are coming to different conclusions about whether the deal is a good one.

ELLIOTT: The Chauvins lost 99 percent of their customers due to the BP spill, and have yet to be fully compensated for their economic losses, or for the use and repair of boats used in the cleanup. She's submitted financial records more than 13 times - at first to BP, then the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

Now, she's skeptical as the process moves to a new claim structure set up by the federal court as part of a massive settlement negotiated by a team of plaintiffs lawyers.

CHAUVIN: Those lawyers have never been on the back deck of a boat. How are you going to understand what my story is if you've never even talked to me? Because you looked at my paperwork? Are you kidding me? You don't know that I put all my money back into my business. You don't understand what my growth rate is. You don't understand what my future plans are.

TOBY DUFRENE: I don't think they're going to fix our fisheries they've got messed up. There are many places out there that there ain't no shrimp. You can drag for days and days and maybe catch two or three. And they're not going to fix that.

CHAUVIN: I don't know that there's any justice in this whole thing for the people along the Gulf Coast. I really don't.

KEITH JONES: Well, there is no justice for Gordon. There's no justice for any of those 11 men who were killed. No amount of money can make it right. Nothing in the world is ever going to bring Gordon back, and that would be the only way to make things right.

JONES: We can't make pain go away. We can't make disability go away. We can't make lost loved ones come back. But we can make it right financially. We can make their bank accounts look the way they should look, and then some. And that's what I believe the settlement's going to do.
...
Commercial fisherman Malcom Coco fits that category. He captained an igniter boat, setting fire to oil in the Gulf with milk jugs of gasoline lit by a flare.

MALACOM COCO: You drive up to the back of the fire and just lay it in like you were shooting fireworks, and back up, and within sometimes two seconds, it was the biggest blaze you've ever seen in your life ever.

ELLIOTT: Soon after, he started having health problems.

COCO: Am I going to get cancer 10 years from now? I don't know. BP will be onto another well by then.

ELLIOTT: Coco is unsure whether he'll join in the settlement, or opt out and pursue his lawsuit. His attorney, Daniel Becnel, Jr. wants more details.
...




Victims will have to wait until April 16 to learn the terms of the settlement between BP and the plaintiff's committee. I hope and pray I'm dead wrong but I have an awful feeling that there will be much of the devil's fingerprints in the details.

There is also no clarification for Judge Barbier's statement about what "a realignment of parties" might entail.

BP oil spill trial settlement proposal could be filed in New Orleans federal court by April 16

Friday, March 16, 2012, 6:55 PM  Updated: Friday, March 16, 2012, 7:09 PM

The terms of a proposed $7.8 billion settlement between BP and private plaintiffs in the massive Gulf oil spill litigation will be filed in federal court in New Orleans by April 16, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said in an order issued late Friday. The order sets up a May 3 conference with lawyers to address remaining issues that will be contested when a long-awaited trial over the spill begins.

"The court has previously noted that as a result of the proposed class settlement, there may be a realignment of parties and a need to revise the existing trial plan," Barbier wrote in his order.

That trial will now largely focus on claims of federal, state and local governments against BP and other parties responsible for the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the ensuing rupture of the Macondo well, which resulted in as much as 4.9 million barrels of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, some of which reached the Louisiana shoreline.

But it may also see the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee attempt to prove the roles of Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and Halliburton, the provider of well services for the Macondo discovery, in the disaster. As part of the proposed settlement, BP assigned to the committee its ability to recover cleanup costs and possible punitive damages from the two companies.

Meanwhile, payment of claims already settled through Ken Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility will continue through the filing of the settlement papers under the new Court Supervised Oil Spill Settlement Process, run by Lafayette Attorney Patrick Juneau, a spokesman for the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee said.

The still contested government claims include $20 billion or more in fines and expenses that BP and other responsible parties are still facing under two federal laws.
...
Also unclear is the status of claimants who may decide not to agree to the settlement with BP.




BP has apparently gone into the comedy business by saying that they operate their business to the "highest ethical standards." Since it seems highly unlikely that anyone with a shred of integrity would want their reputation sullied by taking a senior executive position at BP it should hardly come as even a teensy surprise to anyone that a BP exec may be using their position to line their own pockets.

BP says investigating 'bribery' claim

3-15-12

LONDON — BP on Thursday said it was investigating an allegation of bribery at its tanker chartering division after a letter detailing alleged corruption was sent to its chief executive last week.

The British energy giant issued a statement after The Daily Telegraph reported that BP was investigating a "serious case of bribery and corruption".

"BP conducts its business to the highest ethical standards. We take all allegations of this sort extremely seriously and always investigate them," it added.

Details of the alleged corruption were contained in a letter written to chief executive Robert Dudley by a whistleblower describing himself only as a "BP employee", according to The Daily Telegraph.

The paper, which has seen the letter, said the central claim concerns the alleged chartering of tankers at preferential terms for a supplier in return for cash payments to a senior BP employee.

It added that a copy of letter had been sent to Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which recently gained more powers in tackling bribery following changes to the country's Bribery Act last July.

British-based companies can be prosecuted under the new law regardless of where the offences occurred. Foreign firms with a listing in London are not automatically brought into the law's reach, however, as the question of jurisdiction is left to the British courts to decide.




It would seem that BP is incapable of carrying out routine maintenance without illegal flaring. BP tossed in an additional hydrogen sulfide leak into the mix to add insult to injury.
BP Refinery Carson, Calif., Has Valve Leak In Addition To Planned Flaring
03-18-12

LOS ANGELES -(Dow Jones)- In addition to a planned flaring event taking place from March 18, through March 20, at the BP (BP, BP.LN)265,000 barrel-a-day refinery in Carson, Calif., the company released a large amount of hydrogen sulfide during the morning due to a leaking valve, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
...




Not content to only poison the air with truly nasty emissions from its Carson, California refinery, BP has done the same with its Whiting, Indiana refinery. It's hardly comforting that the National Response Center had to be notified for BP's latest hazardous faux pas.

BP reports unit trip at Whiting, IN refinery

REUTERS, 19/03 05:31 CET

(Reuters) – BP Plc on Monday reported a unit trip and system shutdown at its 405,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) Whiting, Indiana, refinery, according to a filing with the U.S. National Response Centre.

The incident took place at about 13:00 pm local time on Sunday and led to nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide emissions, the filing said.

PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!
Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:
3-09-12 06:31 PM Gulf Watchers Block Party - Sniglets Edition... Lorinda Pike
3-06-12 05:00 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - BP Reaches "Settlement" But Most Claims Unresolved - BP Catastrophe AUV #582 Lorinda Pike
2-28-12 01:59 AM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - BP trial delayed a week for settlement talks - BP Catastrophe AUV #581 peraspera
The last Mothership has links to reference material.

Previous motherships and ROV's from this extensive live blog effort may be found here.

Again, to keep bandwidth down, please do not post images or videos.

Originally posted to Gulf Watchers Group on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 02:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Whistleblowers Round Table.

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