British Petroleum is claiming in a civil suit that it’s pretty much done cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico after its massive spill two years ago. The federal government’s response: Fuck that.
In November, Louisiana Eastern District Court judge Carl Barbier will decide if BP’s proposed final damages settlement for those affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion (pictured above) is adequate. To make its case, the company filed a motion a few weeks ago arguing that the scope of damage was assessed and that substantial progress had been made.
Late last week, as noted by New Orleans attorney Stuart Smith, the government filed an objection [PDF], even though it’s not a party to the case. The Department of Justice’s filing is harsh, gutting the BP motion and leaving its entrails in the open air. DOJ suggests that it would normally have been “unlikely” to get involved, but “[t]hat changed … as a result of arguments, new evidence, and plainly misleading representations in BP’s papers” concerning liability and damage to natural resources. The government is concerned that if BP’s overly rosy assessment is allowed to stand, that would, as Smith puts it, “put a legal seal of approval on what they consider to be false or misleading claims by the oil company,” which could hurt separate criminal and civil cases that the federal government is pursuing itself.
The government summarizes — and rebuts — BP’s arguments at the outset. The company’s argument that its behavior “did not constitute gross negligence or willful misconduct” contradicts witness testimony, including that of its own drilling expert. Further, the company tries to suggest that “the Gulf is undergoing a robust recovery.” The government’s response:
BP’s selective look at certain resources attempts to pre-judge the results of the multi-year, multi-million dollar Natural Resource Damage Assessment (“NRDA”) that is already showing indications of harm to natural resources, such as:
- Dolphins in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, are showing signs of severe ill health.
- Certain deep-sea corals have been identified as dead or dying, and populations of plankton-eating fish that reside on certain corals are significantly decreased.
- Heavy marsh oiling that “could cause negative impacts to marsh vegetation for years to decades.”
This is a speed bump that British Petroleum was not anticipating.
When it comes to British Petroleum’s former CEO, the government gets snarky. Justice notes how Tony Hayward, “BP’s erstwhile ‘Group Chief Executive,'” responds to being asked if a prediction of possible disaster might be interpreted as a prophecy.
Over BP’s objection, Hayward answered, “I can imagine how that could be interpreted that way. Indeed.” Indeed.
But Hayward, being erstwhile, doesn’t need to worry about any of this. In an article in the Times with the brilliant headline “Tony Hayward Gets His Life Back,” the paper describes Hayward’s new life.
Two years after being shown the door at BP, in one of the most ignominious corporate exits in recent memory, Mr. Hayward is back in the oil game. Not at an oil major like BP nor, for that matter, in the gulf, where oil rigs and refineries were being tested anew last week, this time by Hurricane Isaac. No, Tony Hayward is hoping to strike it rich in, of all places, the oil fields of northern Iraq.
As the government struggles to hold BP accountable for the damage Hayward’s company did in 2010, he’s landed on his feet, exploring the Iraq desert that the government made available to companies like his. Karma, if it ever existed, is dead.