A Texas federal court recently issued a decision in which it held that the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board ("CSB"), which was created as a part of the Clean Air Act, has jurisdiction to investigate certain pollution incidents that occur on the Outer Continental Shelf. Traditionally, only the United States Coast Guard and/or the predecessor of the United States Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement ("BSEE"), which was the Minerals Management Service ("MMS"), conducted such investigations.
The case arose from the BP Macondo oil spill and involved a challenge by Transocean to subpoenas issued by the CSB for documents and other related information that Transocean collected as a part of its internal investigation and provided to the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Team, which consisted of the Coast Guard and MMS. Transocean challenged the CSB's jurisdiction, among other things, on the basis that the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") was authorized to investigate the casualty; that the CSB's jurisdiction did not extend to the Outer Continental Shelf; and that the Clean Air Act had given other federal agencies responsibility on the Outer Continental Shelf.
The court disagreed and noted that Transocean's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was attached to the seabed by a marine riser such that it was connected to the Outer Continental Shelf to which the CSB's and not the NTSB's jurisdiction extended. The court further held that there was nothing to indicate that the investigatory jurisdiction of the Coast Guard and/or BSEE on the Outer Continental Shelf was exclusive.
The case is United States of America v. Transocean Deepwater Drilling, Inc., No. 11-cv-03638.