Federal regulators on Wednesday cited oil company BP PLC and two other companies _ Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton _ for alleged safety and environmental violations stemming from last year's rig explosion and massive Gulf oil spill.
The companies have 60 days to appeal the citations issued by the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The bureau says the alleged regulatory violations could result in civil penalties once the appeal period has ended.
These initial citations are the product of a federal government probe of the Deepwater Horizon blast, which killed 11 workers and hastened the nation's worst offshore oil spill.
"To ensure the safe and environmentally responsible conduct of offshore operations, companies that violate federal regulations must be held accountable," BSEE Director Michael R. Bromwich said in a statement. "The joint investigation clearly revealed the violation of numerous federal regulations designed to protect the integrity of offshore operations."
One of the citations accuses well owner BP, rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton of failing to operate in a "safe and workmanlike manner." Another says the companies "failed to take necessary precautions to keep the well under control at all times."
A report issued last month by the panel of government investigators says BP bears ultimate responsibility for the disaster, which spewed roughly 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.
BP ignored crucial warnings and made bad decisions during the cementing of the well, but Transocean and Halliburton shared some of the blame, the report concluded.
The bureau said this is the first time the Interior Department has issued citations of this kind directly to a contractor that wasn't the operator of the well.
Transocean spokesman Lou Colasuonno said the company intends to appeal the citations. BP spokesman Scott Dean said the company will respond to the bureau "in due course" once it reviews the citations. A Halliburton spokeswoman said the company reserves its right to appeal.
BP said in a statement that it has taken steps to improve safety and is implementing new, voluntary standards in the Gulf of Mexico that exceed current regulatory requirements.
"We continue to encourage other parties, including Transocean and Halliburton, to acknowledge their responsibilities in the accident, make changes to help prevent similar accidents in the future and step forward to fulfill their obligations to Gulf communities," the company said.
In a statement, Halliburton said it believes it is "fully indemnified" by BP against any loss resulting from the rig disaster, including any penalties imposed by BSEE.
"Halliburton will continue to work with BSEE and is committed to full and open cooperation with regulatory officials," the company said in a statement.