Latest BP Oil Spill Lawsuit Targets Fireboat Owners

Companies that provided fireboats following the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig have been named in a lawsuit. The complaint, filed by fisherman and others whose incomes have been impacted by the BP oil spill, claims the fireboats flooded the doomed rig, causing it to sink and damage the well a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Seventeen companies are named in the lawsuit, including Seacor Marine and Diamond Offshore Drilling. According to a Business Week report, the suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of all commercial fisherman, charter-boat operators and other businesses affected by the spill; property owners whose land was fouled; and oil workers who lost work because of the U.S.-imposed halt in offshore drilling.

The lawsuit alleges that flooding by the fireboats of the Deepwater Horizon and the resulting sinking of the rig directly caused the undersea well’s piping to break, spawning the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The plaintiffs claim the fireboats violated industry standard procedures that warn against using water cannons to attack pressurized oil fires aboard marine vessels. As many as eight fireboats each shot “10,000 to 50,000 gallons of seawater on the rig per minute,” according to the complaint. They flooded the rig’s upper compartments and destabilized it, causing it to tip over and sink, it alleges.

According to Business Week, the complaint further alleges that the fireboats should have used their “dynamic positioning systems” to hold the Deepwater Horizon in place while fighting the fire with industry-approved methods, which would have prevented the sinking and the oil spill.

The lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

In other oil spill news, federal officials have decided to allow pressure testing of the containment cap that was installed over the leaking well last week to continue for now. This despite the appearance of bubbles and seepage in four place around the gusher. According to The Washington Post, the Obama Administration is allowing BP to keep the cap shut off for the next 24 hours while engineers try to determine the severity and consequences of the problems.

The well was shut off last week, and oil has stopped flowing in the Gulf of Mexico for now. However, over the weekend, BP and the government were at odds over whether to allow the well to remain shut off. BP wants it to stay capped until relief wells – the only permanent way to end the spill – are finished sometime in the next month.

However, the government was pushing BP to open the well up and continue efforts to siphon the oil and collect it in containment ships on the shore. It would take at least a few days to get those ships reconnected, and oil would have to be allowed to flow freely into the sea while that occurred. Federal officials took this stance after pressure readings on the cap weren’t as high as expected. This could be an indication that there is a leak somewhere else in the wellbore, or deep down in bedrock, which could make the seabed unstable. The well would need to be reopened to ensure no further damage is done.

According to The Washington Post, BP is now considering trying to kill the well again by shooting drilling mud into the blowout preventer. Such an attempt was made earlier this summer, but BP said now that the gushing has been slowed somewhat, a kill might work.

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