EPA Gets Fresh Backing in BP Suspension Battle

Thick oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill floats on the surface of the water and coats the marsh wetlands in Bay Jimmy near Port Sulphur, Louisiana, June 11, 2010. BP's liabilities sky-rocketed in tandem with estimates about the scale of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Friday, as analysts pushed the possible price tag well above four billion dollars. Wall Street experts said the monetary cost of the disaster for BP would be tied to new estimates that put the amount of oil spilled at between one and two million barrels so far, double the previous estimate.
National Journal
Ben Geman
Feb. 5, 2014, 6:24 a.m.

The ad­vocacy group Pub­lic Cit­izen is bat­tling BP’s ef­fort to end its sus­pen­sion from re­ceiv­ing new fed­er­al con­tracts, a sanc­tion that stems from the oil gi­ant’s 2010 Gulf of Mex­ico spill.

Pub­lic Cit­izen filed a brief Tues­day in de­fense of the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency in BP’s law­suit against the agency to over­turn the sus­pen­sion.

“Pub­lic Cit­izen be­lieves that EPA’s sus­pen­sion de­cision re­flects an ap­pro­pri­ate ex­er­cise of EPA’s ex­press stat­utory and reg­u­lat­ory au­thor­ity and will have the ef­fect of pro­tect­ing the pub­lic by pre­vent­ing ex­pendit­ures of gov­ern­ment funds to be­ne­fit an en­ter­prise whose his­tory demon­strates that its cor­por­ate prac­tices cre­ate on­go­ing threats to the en­vir­on­ment, to U.S. work­ers, and to the pub­lic at large,” states the amicus brief filed with the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the South­ern Dis­trict of Texas.

The brief is the latest es­cal­a­tion in the case. The Brit­ish gov­ern­ment and ma­jor busi­ness and oil in­dustry groups pre­vi­ously filed briefs sup­port­ing BP’s law­suit against EPA.

BP and oth­er crit­ics of the agency’s 2012 de­cision to freeze BP’s abil­ity to win new con­tracts say it was far too sweep­ing.

“The EPA had no basis to des­ig­nate [BP Ex­plor­a­tion and Pro­duc­tion] headquar­ters in Hou­s­ton as the ‘vi­ol­at­ing fa­cil­ity’ un­der the rel­ev­ant dis­qual­i­fic­a­tion stat­ute, nor can it make the re­quired show­ing that ‘im­me­di­ate ac­tion’ was ne­ces­sary when it based the sus­pen­sion on events that happened more than two and a half years be­fore the sus­pen­sion, par­tic­u­larly when the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ued to do busi­ness with BP and re­peatedly found it to be a re­spons­ible con­tract­or,” BP spokes­man Geoff Mor­rell said in late Janu­ary in re­sponse to a Justice De­part­ment fil­ing in the case.

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