Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee have called on Houston-based Black Elk Energy LLC to provide them with answers on the fatal explosion and fire earlier this month onboard a shallow-water production platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

There were 22 workers onboard the platform, about 17 miles southeast of Grand Isle, LA, in West Delta Block 32, when a worker’s torch caused the explosion and fire on Nov. 16 (see Daily GPI, Nov. 19). The platform had been shut down since August and was undergoing work to bring it back into service, according to Black Elk.

“In order to better understand how and why this incident occurred, we ask that you provide our staff with a briefing on the explosion, its possible causes, and any remedial efforts your company intends to take as a response to this incident. We understand that you are currently focused on responding to this emergency, but would appreciate your assistance in scheduling this briefing by Dec. 10,” the Democrats wrote in a letter Monday to Black Elk President John G. Hoffman.

“Two workers are dead, another is missing, and several others were seriously injured [as a result of the explosion]. The environmental ramifications of the explosion are unclear at this point,” they said, adding that the blast “came only one day after BP entered into a $4 billion criminal settlement with the Department of Justice for its role in the…Deepwater Horizon disaster” in 2010 (see Daily GPI, Nov. 16).

The letter was sent by Energy and Commerce Committee members Henry Waxman of California, Bobby Rush of Illinois, Diana DeGette of Colorado, and by Natural Resources Committee members Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rush Holt of New Jersey.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has begun an investigation. The agency said it is committed to determining the direct and indirect causes of the explosion and will take appropriate enforcement action.

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