Last week, BP filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking a federal court to overturn the EPA’s ban on new BP contracts as a result of the company’s negligence leading up to, during, and after the 2010 oil spill – the worst man-made environmental disaster in history.
BP complains that the EPA’s decision last year to suspend BP from gaining any new federal contracts is “punitive arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of EPA’s discretion.”
BP argues that the EPA has “manifestly failed” to follow the “law and legal standards that govern its actions.” The EPA suspended BP PLC and its subsidiaries in November 2012, citing BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout. The letter of suspension notes that BP failed to alert onshore engineers of problems with the well during safety testing, misled the public and a House subcommittee about the rate of leakage from the blowout, and impeded a congressional investigation.
In May 2010, David Rainey, the BP Vice President of Exploration for the Gulf of Mexico at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, misled a House subcommittee as to the rate of leakage from the blowout as well as provided false information about the method BP used to estimate the rate of leakage. He later submitted a “false and misleading” memo to the House subcommittee, withholding information relevant to their investigation.
In November 2012, a Grand Jury for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana charged both Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, the BP Well Site Leaders stationed on the Deepwater Horizon, with 11 counts of Involuntary Manslaughter, 11 counts of Seaman’s Manslaughter, and one count of Violating the Clean Water Act.
A day later, an Information was filed against BP, charging the company with 11 counts of Misconduct or Neglect of Ship Officers (manslaughter), one count of Obstruction of Justice, one count of violating the Clean Water Act, and one of violating the Migratory Birds Treaty Act.
BP signed a plea agreement in response to the Information, reaching a $4.5 billion settlement with the US government to resolve criminal and securities claims. The company’s $4 billion in fines and other payments to resolves claims with the Justice Department is the largest criminal penalty in US history. BP also pled guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter.
The EPA cites BP’s “criminal and seriously improper conduct” as the basis for the company’s suspension last year.
BP’s lawsuit complains that the government determined the company was a “responsible contractor,” citing that it awarded BP 23 government fuel contracts before imposing the suspension 2 ½ years after the oil spill. Yet the company has a long and consistent history of misconduct. A representative for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration once said that BP has a “serious, systemic safety problem in their company.
Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight told the Huffington Post that BP’s misconduct as a US contractor accounts for “63 instances of misconduct by BP and its subsidiaries since 1995.”
Despite its extensive history of safety violations and negligence, BP’s complaint states that “EPA’s decision to suspend did not address the overwhelming evidence and record of BP’s present responsibility as a government contractor and leaseholder, and did not attempt to explain how or why immediate suspension was necessary to protect the public interest…”
According to The Hill, “the contracting suspension has temporarily taken BP out of the running for new fuel and related service contracts that are worth billions of dollars.” But the company, which generates about $400 billion a year, has over 700 oil and gas exploration blocks in the Gulf, and existing contracts are not affected by the ban.
In July, BP chief Bob Dudley told reporters that the ban was not “causing distress in any way.” To the Telegraph, Dudley stated, “We have largest acreage position in Gulf of Mexico, more than 700 blocks… that’s plenty, we have a lot. We have been debarred from supplying fuel to the US military going forward but quite frankly we have a very big business in the US and this is not distracting us from what we do.”