Oil Platform Fire Cause Unknown But No Oil Spilled; Owner Had History of Safety Violations

A day after an oil platform fire in the Gulf of Mexico, more details regarding the incident and the oil platform owner, Mariner Energy, have come to light. Speaking to reporters today, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asserted that the incident was a run-of-the mill industrial accident and not an example of a failure in regulatory oversight, noting “It’s not another Deepwater Horizon issue, it appears to be another industrial accident.”

Despite Salazar’s statements, more details emerged today about past safety violations by Mariner Energy and its predecessor, Forest Oil. The Washington Post has noted that federal records show Mariner Energy has a history of safety violations including:

  • In June, Mariner Energy paid a $20,000 federal fine for an alleged regulatory violation on an offshore platform.
  • In May, Mariner Gulf of Mexico LLC paid a $35,000 fine for allegedly taking inadequate steps to control hydrogen sulfide pollution.
  • In 2006, Forest Oil had several crew members on another oil platform who were so concerned about safety problems that they took a boat to shore. Their boss stayed behind and was killed when equipment ejected from the well.

Fortunately, the oil platform fire on Thursday did not lead to an oil or natural gas leak, as was initially feared.

In fact, had the oil platform fire not occurred in such close proximity to the BP Deepwater Horizon location in the Gulf of Mexico, it is unlikely much notice would have been paid to the accident at all.

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