Thursday, September 26, 2013

BP heads back to court Monday: Wants to downplay amount of oil that spewed into Gulf

This morning, the National Wildlife Federation e-mailed a press release, which I received. They remind that on Monday, BP heads back to court "to try and convince U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier that the company’s Deepwater Horizon well spewed just 2.45 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico—significantly less than the 4.1 million barrels the government’s team of scientists has estimated."

The NWF, rightly, points out that BP "has a long history of downplaying the size of the spill—the company pled guilty to lying to Congress on this very topic."

Any decrease in the official estimate of the volume of the spill would greatly benefit BP’s bottom line, NWF says. "Under the Clean Water Act, BP will have to pay anywhere from $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel spilled, depending on the degree of negligence found.

Reducing the estimated size of the spill will also hurt the outlook for the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to the RESTORE Act, 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines will be sent back to the region affected by the disaster."

Here are some of the areas that NWF urgently wants addressed:

  • Deep sea impacts: Just yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a study indicating that it may take decades for the deep sea ecosystem to recover.
  • Dolphin deaths: NOAA’s investigation into the unprecedented dolphin and whale mortalities in the Gulf of Mexico—particularly bottlenose dolphins—continues.
  • Oiled shorelines: In June, a 40,000-pound tar mat was found off a Louisiana barrier island and 200 miles of the Louisiana coast remain oiled. Tar balls from the disaster regularly foul the beaches and coastlines of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
  • Blue crabs: Crabbers from Florida to Louisiana are complaining about low crab catches this year and scientists are investigating the oil disaster as a potential cause. 
NWF writes that BP is "...trying to walk away from the Gulf with as little liability as possible, most notably in its attempts to limit settlement payouts to businesses harmed by the spill."

Monday issues in the second phase of the trial, which will determine the company’s civil liabilities for violating the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act and other federal environmental laws.

The Clean Water Act civil fines are meant to be punitive, while the Oil Pollution Act requires that BP pay to repair the damage to the Gulf.

For more information, please click here.

Bold marks/hyperlinks are largely those of the writer's.
Note: an earlier version of this blog incorrectly listed the NWF as the National Fish & Wildlife Federation.
Caption for photo: An egret in the Gulf of Mexico was oiled because of the BP spill. Credits: U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service