Aug 20, 2010

Oil Disaster in Maxico: flames talk

Transocean, the company that owned the rig behind the Gulf of Mexico disaster, has accused oil giant BP of hiding key data needed for a probe in a recently published strongly worded letter.

Transocean accused BP of trying to stop any other entity from probing the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, leased by BP, which killed 11 workers and unleashed the worst oil spill in history.

BP quickly denounced the letter, which was sent to three members of President Barack Obama's cabinet and leading members of Congress, calling it a "publicity stunt" to deflect Transocean's responsibility.

Transocean said BP had stopped even acknowledging requests for documents that "only BP has and that are critical to an honest assessment of the incident and the identification of possible improvements for the entire industry."

"BP has continued to demonstrate its unwillingness, if not outright refusal, to deliver even the most basic information to Transocean," Steven L. Roberts, a counsel at the company, wrote in the letter obtained by AFP.

"This is troubling, both in light of BP's frequently stated public commitment to openness and a fair investigation and because it appears that BP is withholding evidence in an attempt to prevent any other entity other than BP from investigating," he wrote.

Transocean, which is based in Switzerland, said earlier this month it was facing 249 lawsuits of claims over the disaster. The company has asked a court to limit its liabilities to 27 million dollars, saying it was not responsible.

Transocean is seeking 16 pieces of information from BP, including laboratory tests, logs that show transfers to the Deepwater Horizon and a chart identifying BP personnel involved on the oil rig.

British-based BP, which has promised a 20 billion-dollar compensation fund over the disaster, voiced dismay at Transocean's letter and questioned its motives.

A BP counsel, James Neath, late Thursday sent a response to Transocean saying that the company's letter included "many false and misleading assertions."

"Given its content and tone, your letter is nothing more than a publicity stunt evidently designed to draw attention away from Transocean's potential role in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy," Neath said.

He said that BP provided Transocean with "thousands of pages of documents" including lab test reports and the initial exploration plan for the Deepwater Horizon.

"From the beginning, our goal has been to help the public, the government and the industry understand what happened, why it happened and how such an accident can be prevented from ever happening again," Neath said.

Neath said BP committed to releasing its investigation to the public and "we continue to stand by that promise."

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