Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program
Public Citizen applauds U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s long-awaited ruling that BP acted with gross negligence in setting off the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The ruling underscores that BP’s intolerable recklessness was the root cause for an accident that left 11 workers dead and devastated five Gulf Coast communities and that the company should not be trusted to operate in U.S. waters.
The finding means that BP will have to pay significantly larger fines to the federal government for causing oil to spew into the Gulf over the course of 87 days in the summer of 2010.
Instead of accepting responsibility, BP has been engaging in drawn-out legal fights. The company has already stated that it will appeal today’s decision and, even worse, is still actively fighting oil spill victims pursuing claims against the corporation under a settlement the company entered into voluntarily. It is time for the corporate criminal to accept responsibility and end the legal fights. It should stop shelling out millions to its defense lawyers, stop challenging the settlement to which the well-lawyered company agreed and start paying appropriately imposed fines.
BP has an abysmal history of negligent disregard for worker safety and the environment. Holding BP truly accountable and deterring this corporation from continuing its reckless course means using all the tools available. Time and again, fines alone have not prevented BP from acting recklessly. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lifted its suspension of BP entities from federal contracts, deeming the corporation once again fit to do business with the government. Today’s gross negligence finding by Judge Barbier should trigger a review of the EPA’s premature decision to reinstate BP as a federal contractor.
Today is a victory for the victims of the BP Gulf disaster, but, by itself, it is insufficient to deter misconduct and compensate the many people injured by the BP disaster.