Tag Archives: BP

‘The Guy Who Defended Company That Caused Worst Oil Spill in US History’ Just Confirmed to Head DOJ’s Environmental Division

“Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-11-2018

U.S. Coast Guard crews work to put out a fire during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) joined with Senate Republicans on Thursday to confirm Jeffrey Bossert Clark—a climate-denying former attorney for the fossil fuel industry—to lead the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” warned Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.” Continue reading

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‘Watershed Moment for Climate Liability’ as Rhode Island Files Historic Lawsuit Against 21 Big Oil Companies

“Here we are—the smallest state, the Ocean State—taking on the biggest, most powerful corporate polluters in the world,” said the state’s attorney general. “They need to be held accountable.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-2-2018

In what advocates are calling a “watershed moment” for climate litigation, Rhode Island’s Democratic Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced on Monday that the state has filed a lawsuit against 21 major oil companies—including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell—”for knowingly contributing to climate change, and causing catastrophic consequences to Rhode Island, our economy, our communities, our residents, our ecosystems.”

“This lawsuit marks the first in the country filed on behalf of a state and its citizens against Big Oil,” Kilmartin declared. “For a very long time there has been this perception that they, Big Oil, were too big to take on, but here we are—the smallest state, the Ocean State—taking on the biggest, most powerful corporate polluters in the world, because it’s the right thing to do. They need to be held accountable.” Continue reading

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In First, Two Major Cities Sue Big Oil for Climate Crimes

San Francisco and Oakland charge that fossil fuel companies “stole a page from the Big Tobacco playbook” with misleading campaigns and should pay for damage from rising seas

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-21-2017

The Embarcadero at high tide. Photo: Heidi Nutters/flickr

Environmentalists are celebrating two new lawsuits filed by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, California, in attempts to hold some of the world’s largest oil companies to account for fueling climate change.

“It’s time to hold these climate deadbeats accountable,” said Greenpeace’s climate liability campaigner Naomi Ages, after the suits were announced this week. Continue reading

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Tax Windfall for Deepwater Horizon Settlement a ‘Major Coup for BP’

‘Treating the worst oil spill in U.S. history as an ordinary and necessary business expense boggles the mind’

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-5-2016.

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. A Coast Guard MH-65C dolphin rescue helicopter and crew document the fire while searching for survivors. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon's 126 person crew. Photo courtesy US Coast Guard (public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. A Coast Guard MH-65C dolphin rescue helicopter and crew document the fire while searching for survivors. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon’s 126 person crew. Photo courtesy US Coast Guard (public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

In the six years since BP‘s catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill poured millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, environmentalists, Gulf coast residents, and politicians have clamored for justice. But Monday’s historic $20 billion settlement against the oil giant is not what they hoped it would be.

The settlement’s terms are so generous to BP that it amounts to a tax break worth billions—as some observers predicted.

A whopping $15 billion of the $20 billion settlement can be written off by BP as a “normal operating expense,” meaning the multinational corporation will pay only a fraction of the total settlement amount and American taxpayers will be left with the majority of the astronomical costs of the company’s mistake. Continue reading

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21 Teens Tell Exxon and Koch Brothers: Get Out of Our Lawsuit

By Our Children’s Trust. Published 12-8-2015 at EcoWatch

Twenty-one young people from around the country are working to keep the world’s largest fossil fuel companies from intervening in their constitutional climate change lawsuit. Last week, the youth opposed the industry’s proposal to intervene as defendants in their case.

The proposed interveners are trade associations for major corporations, including the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM)—representing ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Koch Industries and virtually all other U.S. refiners and petrochemical manufacturers—the American Petroleum Institute (API)—representing 625 oil and natural gas companies—and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). 

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“These organizations were not named as defendants in our complaint,” Phil Gregory, of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy said. Gregory serves as one of the attorneys for the youth plaintiffs. “The fossil fuel industry understands how significant our case is. They want to join the federal government in attempting to defeat the constitutional claims asserted by these youth plaintiffs. The fossil fuel industry and the federal government lining up against 21 young citizens. That shows you what is at stake here.”

The lawsuit asserts the federal government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. It also claims the government failed to protect essential public trust resources by facilitating the exploitation of fossil fuels. The youth have asked the courts to order the federal government to prepare and implement a science-based national climate recovery plan. 

The fossil fuel powerhouses call the youth’s case “extraordinary” and “a direct threat to [their] businesses.” They claim “significant reduction in [greenhouse gas] emissions would cause a significant negative effect on [their] members by constraining the sale of the product they have specialized in developing and selling.” 

Victoria Barrett, 16-year-old plaintiff and fellow with Alliance for Climate Education, is participating in the climate talks in Paris advocating for science-based climate recovery plans. Barrett became a plaintiff because she was tired of the U.S. government sacrificing her future by allowing fossil fuel companies unbridled economic growth.

“Fossil fuel companies continue to show complete disregard for my future and the future of my generation,” Barrett said. “They have put my constitutional right to a certain quality of living at risk and continue to completely bulldoze over any real solutions for a sustainable world. These companies are focused on short-term goals, without thinking of their lasting effects on humanity. Fossil fuels are the energy of the past and I see no reason why these companies would not want to pride themselves in looking to the future.”

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In seeking to join the case, AFPM, API and NAM argue the court should focus on short-term economic benefits over a stable climate and healthy environment for future generations. The industry claims that “reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to bring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels down to 350 parts per million would abate some of the future risks of climate change, those reductions would nevertheless not be ‘appropriate’ if the future potential benefits would be outweighed by, for instance, enormous losses in productivity and economic development.”

In a declaration on behalf API’s motion to intervene, Howard Feldman claims, “A sudden and significant reduction in allowable GHG emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels could have a significant negative effect on the profitability of many of API’s members.” However, Jack Gerard, API’s president and CEO, presented a different picture in a press release on API’s website: “The facts are clear … by embracing our nation’s energy renaissance, we can lower costs, clean the air and create more jobs here at home while providing an example to the world.”

AFPM echoed API’s concern in a declaration of David Friedman of AFPM, stating, “If Plaintiffs succeed in eliminating or massively reducing U.S. conventional fuel consumption and imposing other severe restrictions on GHG emission limits, the impact on AFPM’s members will be significant and varied.” 

“We oppose the world’s largest fossil fuel polluters, including Exxon and Koch Industries, arguing that young people don’t have a constitutional right to life if it means reducing fossil fuel use,” said Julia Olson, executive director for Our Children’s Trust, also counsel in the litigation.

“Given what our president just said at the UN climate talks in Paris, a renewed alignment between our government and the fossil fuel industry could not be less welcome. This case asks the court to order what the industry fears most: a national plan using the best science we’ve got to try to leave clean air and a healthy climate to our kids.”

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As Record Settlement Announced Over BP Gulf Oil Disaster, Lesson Is Clear: Clean Energy Now

‘These penalties are inadequate to deter a company of the size of BP from further criminal and negligent conduct,’ says attorney

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published July 2, 2015.

“It’s finally time to learn our lesson from the BP spill and all the spills that have happened since then,” says the Center for Biological Diversity’s Miyoko Sakashita.  (Photo: US Coast Guard)

BP and the Justice Department announced Thursday the agreement of an $18.7 billion settlement over federal, state, and local claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmental groups responded to the settlement by stressing that the damage from the 2010 oil disaster is ongoing; that the funds must be used to restore the Gulf and its communities; and that the lessons of the disaster should be heeded by moving towards a clean energy future.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch noted the historic amount of the settlement, saying in a statement: “If approved by the court, this settlement would be the largest settlement with a single entity in American history.”

Her statement adds that the settlement “would justly and comprehensively address outstanding federal and state claims, including Clean Water Act civil penalties and natural resource damages.” Continue reading

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The Gulf Oil Spill You Never Heard About May Be the Largest Ever

The AP charges that Taylor Energy Company ‘has downplayed the leak’s extent and environmental impact’

Taylor Wells slick as seen by satellite imagery from September 26, 2011

Taylor Wells slick as seen by satellite imagery from September 26, 2011

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams, published April 17, 2015

While Gulf Coast residents and environmental groups focus on the upcoming five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a damning Associated Press investigation has exposed the lingering impacts of a separate 2004 leak in the Gulf of Mexico—one that few people know about, and one that is far worse than the industry wants to admit.

Taylor Energy Company, which formerly operated the oil platform that collapsed during Hurricane Ivan, “has downplayed the leak’s extent and environmental impact, likening it to scores of minor spills and natural seeps the Gulf routinely absorbs,” according to AP journalists Michael Kunzelman and Jeff Donn. Continue reading

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Halliburton And How To Avoid Liability

On April 20, 2010, the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history began. At 9:56 PM, a fire began on an oil rig called the Deepwater Horizon. Within five minutes, the rig exploded, and burned for over a day before sinking into the Gulf of Mexico.

The day the rig sank (April 22), the Coast Guard reported that oil was leaking from the rig at a rate of about 8,000 barrels (340,000 gallons) per day- a very optimistic estimate. The leak flowed for 87 days, and the official US Government estimate of the total spilled was 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons) – or seven times the Coast Guard’s estimate per day.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill from space - May 24, 2010. Photo by NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response AND demis.nl AND FT2 (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Deepwater Horizon oil spill from space – May 24, 2010. Photo by NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response AND demis.nl AND FT2 (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, it was announced that Halliburton, the company who poured the cement for the well, had reached a $1.1 billion settlement with thousands of businesses, individuals and local governments that suffered losses from the explosion and subsequent spill. 

The settlement includes punitive claims of property damage and damage to the commercial fishing industry, as well as claims assigned against Halliburton by BP in BP’s 2012 class action settlement.  It also includes legal fees. The settlement still has to be approved by the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. In announcing the settlement, Halliburton’s attorneys stated that the agreement resolves “a substantial majority” of its liability in the disaster.

Stephen Herman and James Roy, the leaders of the steering committee for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that “Halliburton stepped up to the plate and agreed to provide a fair measure of compensation to people and businesses harmed in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.”

The settlement has been expected ever since Halliburton pleaded guilty last July to destroying evidence after the spill. The penalties for that ruling were minor- a $200,000 fine (the maximum allowable, believe it or not) and three years probation (how do you put a company on probation anyways?). However, it also gave credence to the fact that Halliburton was liable. With that in mind, Halliburton said in a statement on Tuesday that, “An agreement denies liability; it is not an admission of liability.”

BP’s response to the settlement is just about what you’d expect. In an e-mailed statement, BP senior vice president Geoff Morrell said: “This settlement marks the very first time — despite three years of official investigations and litigation implicating the company — that Halliburton has acknowledged that it played a role in the accident. The evidentiary record demonstrates that Halliburton recommended and pumped an unstable cement slurry; intentionally destroyed and failed to produce uniquely relevant evidence showing the slurry to be unstable; and failed to properly monitor the well and detect the influx of hydrocarbons.”

By resolving most of both punitive and compensatory liability in most lawsuits from private plaintiffs and local governments, the settlement will let Halliburton avoid billions in punitive and compensatory damages if they’re found to have committed fraud and gross negligence in a ruling due shortly dealing with how much blame each company carries for the disaster.

We’ll be writing more about Halliburton in the next couple weeks; their story over the last twenty years is rife with being exempted from laws, dodging responsibility and the like. We’ll look at how a former Secretary of Defense with zero experience in the oil business became the CEO of Halliburton, and how this led to numerous government contracts and exemptions from laws they found onerous. Then, we’ll look at what happened with Halliburton when this CEO resigned and became Vice President of the United States instead. It sounds like fiction, doesn’t it? We wish it were…

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