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BP Disaster - U.S. Interior Department Sued Over BP Oil Spill

Photo of Brant Stogner

According to the suit, with regards to the BP Deepwater Horizon exploration plan, the Minerals Management Service had issued notices to the oil companies that they did not have to comply with the blowout and worst-case oil spill rules. Additionally, the agency failed to analyze the potential environmental impact of a blowout and spill, as is required by federal law (National Environmental Policy Act).

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. According to David Guest, an attorney for the plaintiffs, "this case is about lax regulation...it is actually easier to get a permit for an offshore oil well than for a hot dog stand." The suit seeks to invalidate the agency's practice of sending notices to oil companies informing them that they do not have to comply with the rules and to order review of existing offshore drilling plans that do not comply with existing rules. According to one of plaintiffs' other lawyers, Robert Wiygul, "the basic problem here is that the Minerals Management Service tried to change the law without telling anybody...that's bad policy, and the BP mess proves it is a disaster for the environment."

It is blatantly obvious that BP and the other major oil companies would prefer not to have to comply with federal regulations. It does not take any leaps of faith to understand that compliance costs the oil companies money, and BP is famous for its statements leading up to the 2005 Texas City explosion in which its executives bragged that they were "printing money." However, what I did not know was that the federal agency may have actually encouraged and promoted this type of behavior. The rules and regulations are only effective if they are enforced. It is shocking to learn that the federal agency may have given BP a "free pass" on compliance with safety and contingency measures. At this point, these are allegations only, as nothing has been proven. However, this particular lawsuit will be interesting to follow just to see if our own federal agency, which is charged with monitoring compliance with federal law, allowed BP to knowingly disregard federal law. If these allegations turn out to be true, this is not the fox guarding the hen house; but rather, is the bulldog letting the fox walk right in.

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