Two Offshore Workers Charged over U.S. Gulf of Mexico Oil Spills


Two Fieldwood Energy LLC oil workers face federal criminal charges for allegedly separately allowing crude oil spills from offshore U.S. Gulf of Mexico platforms to avoid required shutdowns.

The two were indicted Tuesday for spills in 2015 and 2018, according to complaints by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Workers in one platform joked that their motto was "safe and sound until production's down," the indictment said.

Fieldwood's "top priority is to operate our facilities in a safe manner that protects" workers and the environment, the Houston-based company said in a statement. Fieldwood was not identified by name in the indictments or charged. It referred questions to attorneys for the two men.

Fieldwood area foreman Brandon Wall, 42, of Louisiana, was charged with negligent discharge and bypassing monitoring and safety systems to keep oil flowing at one of the company's most prosperous platforms, according to the indictment.

"Shutting-in the platform for repairs or maintenance would have resulted in Company A making substantially less money," the indictment said.

The actions released a "harmful quantity of oil and other hazardous substances." 

Wall alerted regulators a month after an oil sheen was first sighted off the Grand Isle 43AA platform, the indictment said.

Wall did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Patrick Huse, 40, of Mississippi, a person-in-charge of other Fieldwood platforms, faces eight charges including knowingly releasing oil, misrepresenting to regulators and making false entries to inspection logs.

The company's Main Pass 310A platform operated for four days in mid-2015 after operators first noticed the spill and alerted Huse, the indictment said. A harmful quantity of oil was released.

Huse did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Both men face jail time and fines if convicted. 

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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