U.S. regulators sued over BP's Atlantis platform
* Interior Secretary Salazar named in complaint
* Complaint says government regulations not enforced
* BP says claims are without substance
HOUSTON, May 17 (Reuters) - A consumer group and a whistle-blower asked a U.S. federal court on Monday to stop production at BP Plc's (BP.L) Atlantis platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico until safety documents are produced.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Houston alleges the British oil giant, who operates the ruptured well gushing oil off the Gulf Coast, lacked proper final engineering documents for key subsea equipment for Atlantis.
The Atlantis platform, a major facility operated by the British oil giant in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, is more than 150 miles south of New Orleans, in Green Canyon at a water depth of 7,070 feet (2,150 meters). The company produces oil and gas from more than 20 fields in the Gulf.
U.S. Secretary for the Interior Ken Salazar is named in the complaint, which accuses the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) of failing to enforce its own regulations.
BP's nearby Deepwater Horizon platform exploded on April 20 and its Macondo well has since been spewing massive amounts of crude oil into the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, threatening the rich coastlines of four U.S. states.
"A similar spill from the BP Atlantis Facility would have a calamitous effect on marine life, endangering the public health and the economic viability plaintiffs," said the complaint filed by Food & Water Watch Inc, a nonprofit coastal environmental group, and former BP contractor Kenneth Abbott.
Abbott's efforts to bring BP into compliance with MMS regulations resulted in his termination from the company, the complaint said and alleged violation were first reported to the Inspector General for the DOI in March 2009, the lawsuit said.
BP said in a statement that it thoroughly investigated the claims when they were first made in 2009 and found them to be without substance. After a second investigation into the same allegations, the company said it made some procedural changes in its project execution plan, but those changes have no connection with the safe operation of the platform, BP said.
Representatives for the MMS were not immediately available to comment.
The Atlantis, a moored floating production platform, first began producing oil in 2007. The facility has a production capacity of 8.4 million gallons (31.8 million liters) of oil per day, and 180 million cubic feet (5 million cubic meters) of natural gas per day, according to the lawsuit.
The case is Food & Water Watch, Inc & Kenneth Abbott v Kenneth Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, No. 10-01759.
(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston, Editing by Sandra Maler)
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