Late this afternoon, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) learned that a Federal Court in the Southern District of Texas has upheld the CSB’s legal authority to investigate the tragic April 2010 blowout and explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. Federal District Court Judge Lee Rosenthal issued an Order
that denied a motion by Transocean Deepwater Drilling, Inc. to block the CSB’s access to information pertinent to the CSB’s investigation.
A number of other companies have cooperated with the CSB’s ongoing investigation; Transocean, however, had raised a number of legal arguments and has not provided the CSB with key information even as the accident approaches its third anniversary.
The Court found that “In sum, the CSB has shown that it has jurisdiction to investigate the Macondo incident. The subpoenas the CSB issued are within its authority. Because Transocean raised no challenge to the subpoenas other than the argument that the CSB exceeded its statutory authority, the motion to dismiss or to quash the subpoenas must be denied.”
The Court’s ruling follows an extensive litigation effort by the CSB and our colleagues in the United States Attorney’s Office in Houston. This ruling greatly supports the CSB’s ongoing investigation and will enable CSB investigators to access critical information that might have otherwise been unavailable.
The CSB’s investigation has been taking a broad look at the causes of the Gulf tragedy. The issues include how the industry and the regulating agencies learned or did not learn from previous incidents. The report also examines the lack of human factors guidance for offshore production, the reliance on manual safety controls instead of automated systems, and organizational issues that can impair effective engineering decisions. We are also examining the implementation of effective corporate governance and sustainability standards to address safety and environmental risk.
The Court’s decision affirms what we always believed – that the CSB has the legal authority and, indeed, the duty to thoroughly investigate the Gulf tragedy.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.
For more information, contact CSB Communications Manager Hillary Cohen, cell (202) 446-8094 or Sandy Gilmour, cell (202) 251-5496.