The legal battle over BP's suspension from winning new federal contracts is getting bigger and bigger.
The advocacy group Public Citizen will likely file an amicus brief in defense of the Environmental Protection Agency against BP's lawsuit to overturn the suspension imposed in 2012.
Public Citizen's Tyson Slocum revealed the plan two days after major business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute — filed a legal brief supporting BP's challenge.
"It is disappointing that the Chamber of Commerce and API are defending the rights of criminal felons to secure government contracts," said Slocum, who directs Public Citizen's energy program.
"I understand that Big Oil's dues fund the budgets of the Chamber and API, but I wish these business groups would instead fight for the rights of law-abiding companies, and not those that pled guilty to manslaughter," he added.
BP sued the EPA in federal court in Texas four months ago to overturn the suspension that was imposed shortly after the company reached a multibillion dollar criminal plea deal over its 2010 oil spill.
BP is getting new support too.
The British government weighed in with its own brief early this week on BP's behalf.
"Her Majesty's Government is concerned that such a broad sanction can and will have serious and unjustified economic consequences," the Dec. 2 brief states, noting BP's role as an employer, investor, and taxpayer in the two nations.
The brief criticized the decision to suspend not just BP Exploration and Production, which pleaded guilty to criminal charges over the 2010 oil spill, but BP's parent corporation and 20 other business units.
The British government argues that by imposing such a broad sanction, the EPA "risks creating a powerful disincentive to cooperation in times of crisis."
The brief argues that companies "may think twice" before agreeing to accept responsibility, perform remedial work, or reach a plea deal "if such efforts are not taken into account when the time comes to mete out other sanctions."