The company that owned the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico has accused BP of withholding critical evidence needed to investigate the cause of the worst offshore spill in US history, it emerged today.
The new complaint by Transocean was revealed in a confidential document obtained by Associated Press. BP called the claims a publicity stunt.
It follows similar complaints by US politicians about difficulties obtaining necessary information from BP in their investigations.
In a sternly worded letter to BP's lawyers, Transocean said the oil giant had in its sole possession information key to identifying the cause "of the tragic loss of 11 lives and the pollution in the Gulf of Mexico".
BP's refusal to turn over the documents had hampered Transocean's investigation and hindered what it had been able to tell families of the dead and state and government investigators about the accident, the letter said.
BP and Transocean appear likely to have a court battle over how much each should pay out for the tragedy.
Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon, the rig that exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers and unleashing millions of gallons of oil. BP was the operator and majority owner of the well.
BP spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said Transocean's accusations were misleading and misguided.
"We have been at the forefront of co-operating with various investigations commissioned by the US government and others into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy," she said.
"Our commitment to co-operate with these investigations has been and remains unequivocal and steadfast."
In the dispute over documents, Transocean said that BP released limited records only after the company agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement at BP's request.
"This is troubling, both in light of BP's frequently stated public commitment to openness and a fair investigation, and because it appears that BP is withholding evidence in an attempt to prevent any entity other than BP from investigating the cause of the April 20 incident and the resulting spill," the letter had noted.
US President Barack Obama warned months ago that companies involved in the accident needed to work together and with the government on the investigation.
"I will not tolerate more finger-pointing or irresponsibility," he said.