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March 20, 2013

No New Gulf Leases for BP Is Good News, But Activists Must Keep Pressure Up

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

Great news: BP has declined to bid on new Gulf oil leases.

It’s a victory for those still reeling from the havoc BP unleashed on the Gulf region, and it shows the power of activism.

In November, the government suspended BP from bidding on federal contracts. However, it did not say how long the suspension would last. Shortly afterwards, BP was downplaying the suspension to shareholders, telling them the corporation “has been in regular dialogue with the EPA” and was already negotiating with federal regulators to lift the ban.

In response, Public Citizen quickly called on the government to get a backbone and ban BP from receiving U.S. government contracts for at least the entirety of one of its affiliate’s five-year probation period (stemming from that affiliate’s guilty plea to criminal offenses stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster) because it has a proven track record of irresponsibility and dishonesty.

Public Citizen also launched a petition calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban BP from contracts for five years. That petition garnered more than 6,600 signatures

Now BP is singing another tune.

Once confident that it could quickly resolve its suspension, BP declined a provisioned offer by the Department of Interior (DOI) to participate in today’s auction of new Gulf of Mexico offshore drilling leases, suggesting that the corporation does not feel it can resolve the contract suspension within the time it takes the department to review new bids and award them to oil companies.

The Department late last week decided to buck the suspension and allow BP to participate in today’s lease auction, likely an attempt to drive up lease bids.

Public Citizen quickly called on its activists to contact the regional office of the DOI and tell officials that BP – which was behind the biggest environmental catastrophe in the country’s history – should not be allowed to get any more oil leases in the Gulf.

The response was overwhelming; it appears that hundreds of people called the DOI, swamping the office’s phone lines.

In the days following the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, President Barack Obama vowed that his administration would hold BP accountable for the disaster.

Public Citizen has vowed to hold the government accountable to its pledge, and that includes pushing the government to maintain the suspension for a judicious time period and to fight back against agencies’ attempts to circumvent the intent of the suspension.

So while this is a victory, we can’t let up. Public Citizen will continue to pressure the government to keep the suspension in effect for five years.

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