Food & Water Europe Calls on European Authorities to Tighten Inspection of Oil Production Facilities in Aftermath of Horizon Disaster
BRUSSELS—In response to BP’s lax safety record in the United States and cozy relationships between oil companies and regulators there, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch and its European program Food & Water Europe are warning European authorities they must strengthen their oversight and inspections of deepwater oil platforms operating in European waters.
“BP is known for cutting corners where safety is concerned and its deepwater operations in the United States are a cautionary tale for Europe,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. EU officials should ensure that Member States are regulating deep-water operations adequately, beginning with BP facilities.” Due to the location of the five BP deepwater facilities operating in the North Atlantic and Atlantic currents, any BP disaster there would foul the entire North Sea.
Furthermore, the European Commission coordinated a meeting with the oil companies on 11 May behind closed doors, with insufficient information released publicly about its outcome. During the meeting, a questionnaire was distributed to all the oil companies in attendance, asking them about their capacity to respond to a disaster similar to the BP Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. It also asked those present to evaluate their safety measures in place.Current efforts by European officials have either been halted or are inadequate, says Food & Water Watch. MEP Boguslaw Sonik, Vice Chairman of the Environment Committee, and two other MEPs drafted a resolution calling for tighter inspection methods, stronger safety rules, and a strengthening of international rules for off-shore exploration and drilling. The motion did not pass.
“We fear this effort only mirrors the cozy and negligent regulation that the oil industry enjoys in the U.S.,” said Hauter. “The European Commission must not enable the industry to evaluate itself when it comes to safety. We also call on them to release the answers from the questionnaires and to reevaluate if the current directives are adequate.”
Food & Water Watch has been working in the U.S. to publicize the failed regulation of BP’s Atlantis production facility in the Gulf of Mexico.
Last month, the organization sued the U.S. Department of the Interior, seeking a temporary injunction to halt operations of BP’s massive Atlantis oil drilling facility until critical safety documents are produced.
“BP Texas City, BP Horizon, and BP Atlantis all have one thing in common: the absence of ‘as built’ drawings that correctly document the facility. This clear pattern of violations makes us question, and should raise alarms about, BP’s safety practices at all of its facilities,” said David Perry, the attorney representing Food & Water Watch in the suit. Perry also represented victims injured in the 2005 Texas City explosion and victims who intervened to oppose the U.S. government’s over-lenient plea bargain with BP over Texas City.
Food & Water Watch, along with former BP document controls contract employee Kenneth Abbott, maintains the Department of the Interior has allowed BP Atlantis to operate without documented, approved final engineering drawings considered critical to safe operation.
In August 2008, Abbott notified his superiors that Atlantis lacked proper and legally-required “as built” final engineering documents for critical subsea components. He later took his concerns to the BP Ombudsman’s office.
An internal BP email written in August 2008 characterized the situation as having the potential for “catastrophic Operator errors.” In February 2010, BP sent a letter to Congress saying that it only learned of the allegations recently and claimed they were unsubstantiated. Recently surfaced BP documents would later reveal, however, that BP had known about these problems for years.
“BP’s safety record speaks to the critical need for independent oversight,” said Hauter. “We hope European authorities are able to learn from the mistakes of the U.S. in regulating the oil industry.”
Food & Water Europe is the European program of Food & Water Watch, Inc (a non-profit consumer NGO based in Washington, DC) working to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.
Wenonah Hauter + 1 202 409 6117 [email protected]
Gabriella Zanzanaini +32 488409662 [email protected]
For more information, see our BP safety fact sheet and map of deepwater oil and gas operations in the North Sea and Atlantic Frontier and prevailing ocean currents.