Monday, April 20, 2015

BP's Legal Wrangling Five Years After the Gulf Oil Spill

BP has a lengthy criminal rap sheet that culminated in the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite BP's long criminal history they are anything but repentant. Rather than accept the penalties levied against them for the 2010 spill they are doing everything in their power to minimize their legal and financial responsibilities.

US District Court judge Carl Barbier found that BP was guilty of "gross negligence" and "willful misconduct." Although the trial concluded earlier this year, the final settlement has yet to be announced.

All throughout the legal proceedings BP has waged a massive and misleading advertising campaign which gives the impression that all is well in the Gulf. However this contention is squarely refuted by the science.

The statutory penalty in the Clean Water Act for BP's actions its actions is $4,300 per gallon, or over $18 billion. Thus far BP has agreed to pay $4.5 billion in related criminal and civil penalties and faces additional fines, as well as to thousands of claims by individuals and companies. It’s also agreed to resolve most private-party lawsuits as part of an uncapped settlement BP values at about $9.2 billion

Whatever the fines, they will be a fraction of the actual costs to the economy, wildlife and the Gulf ecosystem.

After months of negotiations the EPA gave BP the right to bid for US contracts and oil leases on March 2014. However, BPs misinformation and refusal to take full responsibility for the Gulf oil spill casts aspersions on the EPA decision.

As reported by Bloomberg, the EPA imposed the contract suspension in 2012 after determining that BP hadn’t fully corrected deficiencies that led to the Gulf oil spill. BP sued the EPA in federal court in Houston seeking to lift the suspension and then dropped the lawsuit after a deal was reached.

As explained by Tyson Slocum, director of the Public Citizen’s Energy Program in Washington, the EPA decision was premature. This "lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against people and the environment," Slocum said in a statement. BP "was on criminal probation at the time of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and it has failed to prove that it is a responsible contractor."

The government suspended BP’s rights to seek federal contracts after the company pleaded guilty to 11 counts of felony seaman’s manslaughter, two pollution violations and one count of lying to Congress in connection with the spill.

In addition to the spill, the EPA cited the 2005 explosion at a BP-owned Texas City, Texas, refinery and two oil spills in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, as grounds for the 2012 debarment. At the time of the April 2010 spill, BP was on probation after pleading guilty in 2007 to a felony air-pollution charge and paying a $50 million fine for the explosion in Texas City that killed 15 workers.

Related
The Toll on Wildlife from the Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Spill
Research Summary of BP's Gulf Oil Spill
Supreme Court Gives BP a Lump of Coal for Christmas
Transocean to Pay $1.4 billion for its Role in the Gulf Oil Spill
The Costs of Oil: BP Liable for up to 90 Billion
Judge Declares BP is Grossly Negligent but are Fines Enough?

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