The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the jurisdiction of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) to investigate the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo well blowout and explosion, turning down an appeal that the full court hear the case brought by Transocean, the owner of the drilling rig.
Other parties in the investigation, including BP, had cooperated with the CSB investigation. The accident occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Eleven workers were killed when escaping hydrocarbons ignited and exploded. The blowout led to the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
This latest federal appeals court decision clearly affirms the CSB’s statutory authority to investigate fires, explosions, and releases from fixed offshore facilities, including drilling units like the Deepwater Horizon. Although the Deepwater investigation has severely taxed the CSB’s limited resources, the agency’s independent investigation has had unique benefits, since it was the first to provide a complete explanation for why the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer failed and why the large oil spill occurred.
Pending appeal, Transocean in August 2013 handed over 280,000 documents subpoenaed by CSB investigators. The CSB last year released a two-volume report on the accident, with two more volumes scheduled for release within a few months. The agency is expediting the review process and hopes to have a final version presented to the Board for consideration by June.
I would like to recognize the CSB legal team’s expertise and persistence in pursuing the matter, and to thank the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Orleans for its excellent representation of the CSB. And I commend most of all the tireless work of the CSB Deepwater Horizon investigation team in this essential case.