Energy & Environment

Black Elk Energy Faces Criminal Charges Over November 2012 Rig Explosion

The Houston-based oil platform operator faces six criminal counts in relation to the explosion, which left three workers dead.

Photo taken after the rig explosion
GULF OF MEXICO – Commercial vessels extinguish a platform fire on board West Delta 32 approximately 20 miles offshore Grand Isle, La., in the Gulf of Mexico, Nov. 16, 2012. First responders medevaced nine of the platform’s 22 personnel to nearby rigs. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations is facing criminal charges in relation to a November 2012 explosion off the Louisiana coast that killed three workers and badly injured several others. The Houston-based oil platform operator has been charged with five counts of violating federal health and safety laws and one count of violating the Clean Water Act. U.S Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana filed the complaint.

The explosion took place on a platform erected about 20 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana. David Kwok, an assistant professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center, says the fact that the explosion took place in a federal mineral lease may have been a factor in the decision to file criminal charges.

“If the federal government believes that certain companies are insufficiently trustworthy, perhaps, to be working on federal mineral leases or the like,” Kwok says, “the separate criminal action might be brought forward to create the, kind of, more procedural barriers to prevent that company from taking on additional business with the federal government.”

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a report on the explosion in November 2013. It found that storage tanks on the rig had not been properly purged of flammable liquid before a crew began welding nearby.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Report

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Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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