DOJ Sues ATP Over Alleged Oil, Chemical Discharges in Gulf

The U.S. Department of Justice brought a suit against an oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico, alleging the company illegally allowed discharges of oil and chemicals from a floating oil-and-gas-production platform.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement discovered violations during an inspection of the ATP Oil & Gas Corp. platform, located in the Mississippi Canyon block of the Gulf, last March and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

According to the Justice Department's complaint, filed Monday in the District Court for Louisiana's Eastern District, ATP discharged more oil than it was allowed to into the ocean, and masked this with a chemical "dispersant" added to the wastewater through a concealed metal tube. The dispersant acted to break apart oil molecules into smaller, dispersed droplets. On board the platform, it was referred to as the "soap" or the "sheen-buster," according to the government's complaint.

Though the complaint states that the dispersant had been used from at least October 2010 to March 2012, the tube was connected in such a way that the additional chemical was added after the point where compliance testing samples were taken, so the additive wasn't detected.

The government is seeking civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and injunctive relief for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

ATP Oil & Gas is engaged in the development and production of oil and natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, according to its website. A spokesman didn't immediately respond to request for comment. The company filed a petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in August, according to the website.

ATP owned the platform from at least 2006 to March 6, 2009, according to the complaint. ATP Infrastructure Partners LP, which is also named in the suit, is a limited partnership company formed in March 2009 by ATP Oil & Gas and GE Energy Financial Services to own and operate the platform.

The Justice Department is asking for ATP Oil & Gas to pay up to $32,500 per day for each violation through Jan. 12, 2009, and up to $37,500 per day for each violation after that date. The department also is seeking to assess penalties of up to $37,500 per day against ATP Infrastructure Partners for each violation on and after March 6, 2009.


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