by Jim Nintzel
A group of U.S. lawmakers will recommend BP (BP.L) be ordered to idle its Atlantis oil and gas platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico until federal regulators can prove the region's second biggest rig is operating safely.
At least 17 Democratic lawmakers will urge the Minerals Management Service to shut down Atlantis, which pumps up to 200,000 barrels per day of crude, pending a broad safety probe, according to a letter they will deliver to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday, obtained by Reuters.
"We urge MMS to listen to the expert engineer who reviewed the Atlantis situation and called for an immediate shutdown until it can be shown that this platform is operating safely," the letter said.
An earlier, Feb. 24 letter from 19 lawmakers to the MMS urged an investigation into Atlantis's safety, months ahead of the rig explosion at BP's Macondo field in April and the resulting growing oil spill and environmental disaster.
Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva, who sits on the Committee on Natural Resources, led the February effort and is the first signatory on the new letter.
"Given the backdrop of what has happened, the idling of the (Atlantis) platform I think is justified," Grijalva said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "We need to make sure another catastrophe doesn't happen."