On September 18th, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the CSB’s authority to investigate the tragic April 2010 blowout and explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The Court affirmed U.S. District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal’s March, 2013 decision that ordered Transocean Deepwater Drilling, Inc. to comply with CSB investigative subpoenas that were initially served in 2010 and 2011. In response to Judge Rosenthal’s order, Transocean sought to avoid compliance by seeking a stay of the District Court's decision. The Fifth Circuit rejected Transocean’s request for a stay, and required Transocean to produce documents in response to the CSB’s subpoenas. Transocean pursued an appeal nonetheless.
The Court of Appeals affirmed in a 2-1 decision that the CSB has jurisdiction to investigate the tragedy at the Macondo drilling installation and, of course, the authority to issue administrative subpoenas as part of its investigation. The Court’s decision follows an extensive litigation effort by the CSB and the Justice Department and affirms what the CSB has consistently maintained – that the CSB has the legal authority to thoroughly investigate the Gulf tragedy.
The CSB’s investigation has been taking a broad look at the causes of the blowout and explosion. Volumes 1 and 2, published in June of this year, provided new insights into how and why the BOP was unable to stop the flow of hydrocarbons from the well and made recommendations for improvements in the management of all safety critical elements. Issues to be explored in the final volumes include offshore risk management approaches, regulatory changes since the incident, and any additional safety improvements that may be warranted. Human, organizational, and regulatory factors will be explored.