Friday, November 16, 2012

Reactions To BP Criminal Settlement; & New Explosion

Nov 15: A number of Federal legislators and organizations have responded to the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement of the $4.5 billion criminal settlement agreement with BP on the tragic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico over two years ago [See WIMS 11/15/12]. The following are some of the reactions:
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), the Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee said, "Eleven Americans died. Then BP lied to the American people. And then they tried to cover it up. BP deserves this record-breaking penalty. The Obama administration and the Department of Justice have held BP to the highest level of accountability that the law allows, including for their lies to Congress. Now it is up to Congress to enact laws that raise both the safety standards for offshore drilling and the liability cap for companies that still spill.
    "Two years after the worst environmental disaster in America's history ended, oil is still being dredged up by storms and recently leaked from wreckage at the bottom of the Gulf. This settlement may have closed a chapter of this disaster with the government, but we still have a responsibility to monitor the lingering effects from the spill and put in place new laws that reduce the likelihood of such a catastrophe occurring ever again."
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, "I commend the Department of Justice for holding BP criminally accountable for its actions related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster - the largest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history. Eleven lives were lost and untold damage was done to the Gulf Coast region, and then BP lied to the American people and Congress to cover up the enormous amount of oil that was spilling into the ocean. It is entirely fitting that the company will pay a record $4.5 billion in criminal fines and penalties, and I strongly encourage BP to quickly and responsibly resolve the civil claims that are still pending."
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), President Fred Krupp said, "Today's settlement is the largest penalty ever paid in a criminal case, and we applaud the Department of Justice for pursuing unprecedented fines and for allocating a huge portion of funds to restoration in the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana, restoration projects are expected to include large-scale river diversions, which EDF strongly supports. It is deeply gratifying to see the Justice Department stand firmly on the side of the citizens and environment of the Gulf Coast. We look forward to working with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to get large-scale restoration projects going along the Gulf Coast and in the Mississippi River Delta."
    "The full magnitude of environmental damages in the Gulf will not be known for years, but we do know that the spill's effects continue to unfold. Therefore, it's essential that BP be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. BP broke two major laws that have two very important purposes, and they should pay for violating both. The Gulf Coast depends on full justice being served. This settlement raises our expectations that the Department of Justice will continue to hold BP fully accountable for its civil violations under both the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act."
Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Attorney Marc Fink said, "These penalties don't close the book on this disaster. We continue our fight for full accountability from BP and environmental justice for the Gulf of Mexico region. As we have said from the very beginning, BP should be fully responsible for the complete restoration of the Gulf, and still must publicly disclose all toxic components that spewed into the Gulf during the spill. The BP spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and yet, deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has largely returned to business as usual. If we didn't learn a lesson from the nation's largest ever environmental disaster, it's hard to know what it will take." CBD notes: "The settlement does not address BP's liability for civil penalties under the Clean Water Act, which under the Act could be well over $20 billion. In June 2010, CBD brought a citizen suit against BP seeking the maximum amount of civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and federal right-to-know statutes. A hearing is scheduled before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Dec. 4 in New Orleans."
Oceana, deputy vice president Jacqueline Savitz said, "Oceana is pleased that BP is admitting it played a criminal role in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and that the government is trying to hold BP accountable for its negligence. By rights, this settlement should be just a first step. BP still owes Americans tens of billions of dollars more, possibly as much as $90 billion according to our analysis, including $20 billion under the Clean Water Act, an estimated $30 billion for natural resource damages and additional compensation for economic damages to the fishing and tourism industries. (Other estimates suggest the figure could be twice as large.). . ."
National Wildlife Federation (NWF), president and CEO Larry Schweiger said, "This is a good down payment on the massive restoration needed for the Gulf's ecosystems and the people and communities that depend on them. There's still a lot of work to be done when it comes to penalizing the parties responsible for the Gulf oil disaster through the civil provisions of the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act, but this criminal settlement marks important progress and devotes much-needed resources toward restoration. We look forward to working toward a full settlement that will not only hold BP and all other parties responsible for the devastation of the Gulf oil disaster, but deter future violations by sending a clear message that America holds reckless polluters fully accountable."
Note: As this article was being prepared (11:00 AM ET, November 16) the Coast Guard indicated breaking news that there was an explosion and a fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Reportedly, four persons were air-lifeted to hospitals and early reports indicated two persons may be missing and/or dead.The location was approximately 29 miles off the coast of Louisiana and it was not a deepwell drilling oil rig. More on this as details become available.
    At around 1 PM, Rep. Ed Markey issued a statement on the Gulf platform fire and said, "The Coast Guard and the Department of Interior have informed my committee staff that the fire is out, and they are responding to aid the victims. The fire on the Black Elk Energy rig reportedly occurred when construction crews cut through a line with a torch. The shallow-water platform had shut in all wells before the incident. There are conflicting reports about whether there is pollution in the water, and what exactly the source of the pollution is.

    "This incident raises a number of questions about the nature and adequacy of safety measures on this offshore rig, and I will be asking Black Elk, the Department of Interior and the Coast Guard for full reports on this latest tragedy. This is yet another reminder that our work on oil drilling safety is not complete. The Obama administration has taken important steps to increase safety standards for blowout preventers, well design and construction in offshore drilling. Congress still needs to pass legislation that codifies the actions taken by the Obama administration, increases penalties and liabilities for companies that spill and ensures that the agencies charged with overseeing offshore oil drilling have the resources they need to protect workers and the environment."

    Other reports indicate that there were 22 people on board at the time of the explosion, according to the Coast Guard. Two missing persons are feared dead.Eleven crew members were flown to hospitals, and four of them are listed in critical condition. No one has been confirmed dead.

    Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access the statement from EDF (click here). Access the statement from CBD (click here). Access the statement from Oceana (click here). Access the statement from NWF (click here). Access a statement from Rep. Markey on today's explosion (click here). Access a video and report from ABC news (click here). Access an NBC news and video (click here). [#Energy/OilSpill]
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