More Friends and Foes for BP in Contracting Fight

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
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Ben Geman
Dec. 4, 2013, 12:52 p.m.

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.”

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