Environmental Groups Sue Over BP Oil Spill

Three nonprofit environmental groups are suing BP over allegations that its Deepwater Horizon rig explosion caused an oil spill that not only harmed, but killed, “endangered and threatened species” with effects that will be felt for many years following the cleanup, said the LA Times. The advocacy groups’ action is just one of hundreds BP is facing.

The lawsuit was brought by Defenders of Wildlife, Gulf Restoration Network, and the Save the Manatee Club, and states that the April 20 blowout and oil spill “’have caused and will continue to cause the take of endangered and threatened species,’” including whales, manatees, birds and sea turtles that ‘show no avoidance response to oil slicks,” according to the LA Times, quoting lawsuit documentation. The lawsuit was brought under the Endangered Species Act.

The BP oil spill began with an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 men. All attempts to staunch the gusher failed, until a cap was successfully deployed over the well on July 15. By that time, roughly 4.4 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest offshore oil disaster in US history.

The lawsuit suggests ways in which BP could be held accountable, said the LA Times, such as working to create national marine sanctuaries and creating a permanent endowment for the restoration and study of gulf species. BP has promised to clean and restore the gulf, to fund a large wildlife rehabilitation program, and to fund $500 million on researching the spill’s effects, said the LA Times.

BP released the results of an internal investigation recently in which it cited BP workers for failing to correctly evaluate negative-pressure tests the day of the explosion; it also maintained that its well design was not to blame for the catastrophe. BP also placed much of the onus on contractors for Transocean Ltd., which owned the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig, as well as Halliburton Co., which cemented the well.

According to an ABC News report, BP’s design for its well included a number of cheaper options, including the use of a single tube from the surface to the reservoir, rather than two overlapping tubes.

At least 27 endangered or threatened species make their home in the gulf region, said the LA Times, which noted that over 600 sea turtles were found dead following the explosion; an additional 456 were found alive, but covered in oil. Over 4,300 oiled birds were also found; however, more than half were dead.

Most of the blasts’ oil remains under the sea and experts are unclear on how this and the 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersant will affect wildlife and the environment in the gulf area, said the LA Times.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in New Orleans, is expected to be included in an existing, massive “multidistrict litigation” action, said the LA Times. US. District Judge Carl Barbier is presiding over the over 300 cases that include “personal injury and death cases and loss claims from individuals, businesses and governments,” said the LA Times. Justice Department officials are also expected to file a lawsuit on behalf of the American public citing Oil Pollution Act and Clean Water Act violations; a criminal investigation is also in the works, said the LA Times.

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