Transocean loses appeal to withhold documents from safety board

By Kyle Barnett | Jul 23, 2013

Deepwater Horizon oil rig

NEW ORLEANS - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has denied Transocean’s stay of judgment involving its refusal to turn over subpoenaed documents to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB).

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, had argued that the CSB lacked authority to investigate events leading up to an accidental release of large amounts of gasses during BP's Macondo oil well blowout in April 2010. The accident led to the deaths of 11 workers and spawned the largest offshore oil spill in history.

The CSB is made up of experts in safety and environmental health who are investigating the explosion and the events leading up to it with the goal of preventing future incidents. During the board’s investigation it subpoenaed internal documents from Transocean - but the company only partially complied with the subpoena, according to court documents.

Transocean is currently appealing the CSB’s authority to investigate the matter.

The appeals court denied Transocean's request for a stay under its claim that the CSB had abused its discretion and it ordered Transocean to turn over the subpoenaed information.

"Transocean  has  identified  no  particular  interest  in  the subpoenaed documents," the appeals court ruling states. "If this is true, then we find it  remarkable that Transocean has resisted the CSB’s  subpoenas  for  approximately  thirty-one  months,  and continues to resist them on appeal."

The court’s decision also made the point that the appeal concerning the CSB's authority may take years to decide, whereas the information required by the CSB is needed immediately to prevent another hazardous situation from occurring.

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