EPA Lets BP Back into the Gulf of Mexico 4 Years after Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Saturday, March 15, 2014

BP, the oil corporation responsible for the worst oil spill in U.S. history, is going back into the Gulf of Mexico to make more money.


After a four-year ban on developing new wells in the Gulf, BP will be able to bid on government leases for natural resources, thanks to a recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


BP had sued the EPA in August in an effort to force the agency to lift the ban. It was supported by both U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the British government. As part of the new arrangement with the EPA, BP said it would drop the lawsuit.


The company also will have the chance to bid on government contracts. Prior to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, BP was the Department of Defense’s largest fuel supplier. It is currently the second largest oil producer in the Gulf—next to Royal Dutch Shell—having drilled 63.6 million barrels in 2013 at Gulf sites leased before the disaster.


The lifting of restrictions comes just in time for BP, as the Department of the Interior plans on March 19 to auction oil and gas leases covering more than 40 million acres in the Gulf.


Some critics of BP objected to the EPA’s decision, calling it premature.


Tyson Slocum, director of the Public Citizen Energy Program in Washington, said in a statement that the move “lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against people and the environment.” He added that BP “has failed to prove that it is a responsible contractor.”


The Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 people and spilled millions of gallons of oil, much of which polluted the Gulf shoreline and disrupted local businesses. BP has spent about $38 billion cleaning up the contamination and compensating victims.


It still awaits a ruling from a judge in New Orleans who will decide how large a penalty BP must pay for violating the Clean Water Act (pdf). Those fines could be as high as $17 billion.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

BP Can Again Compete for U.S. Leases, Contracts After Spill (by Mark Drajem, Jim Snyder and Jef Feeley, Bloomberg News)

U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil (by Clifford Krauss, New York Times)

BP, at Trial, Tries to Prove it was Merely “Negligent,” not “Grossly Negligent” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Who Owns BP? Biggest Shareholder is JPMorgan Chase (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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