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“Stage Two” of the BP Gulf of Mexico Environmental Disaster New Drilling Permits amid 28,000 Unmonitored Abandoned Wells

Posted by Admin on October 28, 2011

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27279

by Rady Ananda

Global Research, October 25, 2011
24,486 permanent and 3,593 temporarily abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico [Image]
Since BP’s catastrophic Macondo Blowout in the Gulf of Mexico last year, the Obama Administration has granted nearly 300 new drilling permits [1] and shirked plans to plug 3,600 of more than 28,000 abandoned wells, which pose significant threats to the severely damaged sea. Among those granted new permits for drilling in the Gulf, on Friday Obama granted BP permission to explore for oil in the Gulf, allowing it to bid on new leases that will be sold at auction in December.

Reports Dow Jones: “The upcoming lease sale, scheduled for Dec. 14 in New Orleans, involves leases in the western Gulf of Mexico. The leases cover about 21 million acres, in water depths of up to 11,000 feet. It will be the first lease auction since the Deepwater Horizon spill.” [2]

Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey objected to BP’s participation in the upcoming lease sale, pointing out that: “Comprehensive safety legislation hasn’t passed Congress, and BP hasn’t paid the fines they owe for their spill, yet BP is being given back the keys to drill in the Gulf.”

Environmental watchdog, Oceana, added its objection to the new permits, saying that none of the new rules implemented since April 2010 would have prevented the BP disaster. “Our analysis shows that while the new rules may increase safety to some degree, they likely would not have prevented the last major oil spill, and similarly do not adequately protect against future ones.” [3]

Detailing the failure of the Dept. of Interior’s safety management systems, Oceana summarizes:

  • Regulation exemptions (“departures”) are often granted, including one that arguably led to the BP blowout;
  • Economic incentives make violating rules lucrative because penalties are ridiculously small;
  • Blowout preventers continue to have critical deficiencies; and
  • Oversight and inspection levels are paltry relative to the scale of drilling operation.

Nor have any drilling permits been denied [4] since the BP catastrophe on April 20, 2010, which still spews oil today [5].

28,079 Abandoned Wells in Gulf of Mexico

In an explosive report at Sky Truth, John Amos reveals from government data that “there are currently 24,486 known permanently abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico, and 3,593 ‘temporarily’ abandoned wells, as of October 2011.” [6]

Over a year ago, the Dept. of Interior promised to plug the “temporarily abandoned” (TA) wells, and dismantle another 650 production platforms no longer in use. [7] At an estimated decommissioning cost of $1-3 billion [8], none of this work has been started, though Feds have approved 912 permanent abandonment plans and 214 temporary abandonment plans submitted since its September 2010 rule. [9]

Leaking abandoned wells pose a significant environmental and economic threat. TA wells are those temporarily sealed so that future drilling can be re-started. Both TA wells and “permanently abandoned” (PA) wells endure no inspections.

Over 600 of those abandoned wells belong to BP, reported the Associated Press last year. “Experts say abandoned wells can repressurize, much like a dormant volcano can awaken. And years of exposure to sea water and underground pressure can cause cementing and piping to corrode and weaken.” [10]

The AP added that some of the permanently abandoned wells date back to the 1940s.  And Amos advises that some of the “temporarily abandoned” wells date back to the 1950s.

A three-month EcoHearth investigation revealed that a minimum of 2.5 million abandoned wells in the US and 20-30 million worldwide receive no follow up inspections to ensure they are not leaking. Worse:

“There is no known technology for securely sealing these tens of millions of abandoned wells. Many—likely hundreds of thousands—are already hemorrhaging oil, brine and greenhouse gases into the environment. Habitats are being fundamentally altered. Aquifers are being destroyed. Some of these abandoned wells are explosive, capable of building-leveling, toxin-spreading detonations. And thanks to primitive capping technologies, virtually all are leaking now—or will be.” [11]

Sealed with cement, adds EcoHearth, “Each abandoned well is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. The triggers include accidents, earthquakes, natural erosion, re-pressurization (either spontaneous or precipitated by fracking) and, simply, time.”

As far back as 1994, the Government Accountability Office advised that there was no effective strategy in place to inspect abandoned wells, nor were bonds sufficient to cover the cost of abandonment. Lease abandonment costs estimated at “$4.4 billion in current dollars … were covered by only $68 million in bonds.” [12]

The GAO concluded that “leaks can occur… causing serious damage to the environment and marine life,” adding that “MMS has not encouraged the development of nonexplosive structure removal technologies that would eliminate or minimize environmental damage.”

Not only cement, but seals, valves and gaskets can deteriorate over time. A 2000 report by C-FER Technologies to the Dept. of Interior identified several  different points where well leaks can occur, as this image (p. 26) reveals.  [13]

To date, no regulations prescribe a maximum time wells may remain inactive before being permanently abandoned. “The most common failure mechanisms (corrosion, deterioration, and malfunction) cause mainly small leaks [up to 49 barrels, or 2,058 gallons]. Corrosion is historically known to cause 85% to 90% of small leaks.”

Depending on various factors, C-FER concludes that “Shut-In” wells reach an environmental risk threshhold in six months, TA wells in about 10-12 years, and PA wells in 25 years.  Some of these abandoned wells are 63 years old.

The AP noted that none of the 1994 GAO recommendations have been implemented. Abandoned wells remain uninspected and pose a threat which the government continues to ignore.

Agency Reorganization

Not only was nothing was done with the 1994 GAO recommendations to protect the environment from abandoned wells, its 2003 reorganization recommendations [14] were likewise ignored.  In a June 2011 report on agency reorganization in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill, the GAO reports that “as of December 2010,” the DOI “had not implemented many recommendations we made to address numerous weaknesses and challenges.” [15]

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) was renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) last May after MMS drew heavy fire for malfeasance, including allowing exemptions to safety rules it granted to BP. An Office of Inspector General investigation revealed that MMS employees accepted gifts from the oil and gas industry, including sex, drugs and trips, and falsified inspection reports. [16]

Reorganization proceeded.  Effective October 1, 2011, the Dept. of the Interior split BOEMRE into three new federal agencies: the Office of Natural Resources Revenue to collect mineral leasing fees, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) “to carry out the offshore energy management and safety and environmental oversight missions.” The DOI admits:

“The Deepwater Horizon blowout and resulting oil spill shed light on weaknesses in the federal offshore energy regulatory system, including the overly broad mandate and inherently conflicted missions of MMS which was charged with resource management, safety and environmental protection, and revenue collection.” [17]

BOEM essentially manages the development of offshore drilling, while BSEE oversees environmental protection, with some eco-protection overlap between the two agencies. [18]

Early this month, BSEE Director Michael Bromwich spoke at the Global Offshore Safety Summit Conference in Stavanger, Norway, sponsored by the International Regulators Forum. He announced a new position, Chief Environmental Officer of the BOEM:

“This person will be empowered, at the national level, to make decisions and final recommendations when leasing and environmental program heads cannot reach agreement. This individual will also be a major participant in setting the scientific agenda for the United States’ oceans.” [19]

Bromwich failed to mention anything about the abandoned wells under his purview. Out of sight, out of mind.

Cost of the Macondo Blowout

Today, the GAO published its final report of a three-part series on the Gulf oil disaster. [20]  Focused on federal financial exposure to oil spill claims, the accountants nevertheless point out that, as of May 2011, BP paid $700 million toward those spill claims out of its $20 billion Trust established to cover that deadly accident. BP and Oxford Economics estimate the total cost for eco-cleanup and compensatory economic damages will run to the “tens of billions of dollars.” [21]

On the taxpayer side, the GAO estimates the federal government’s costs will exceed the billion dollar incident cap set by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (as amended). As of May 2011, agency costs reached past $626 million.

The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund’s income is generated from an oil barrel tax that is set to expire in 2017, notes GAO.

With today’s District Court decision in Louisiana, BP also faces punitive damages on “thousands of thousands of thousands of claims.” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier denied BP’s appeal that might have killed several hundred thousand claims, among them that clean up workers have still not been fully paid by BP. [22]

Notes

[1] U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, “Status of Gulf of Mexico Well Permits,” n.d. http://www.bsee.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Permits/Status-of-Gulf-of-Mexico-Well-Permits.aspx

[2] Tennille Tracy, “US Govt Approves First BP Deepwater Exploration Plan in US Gulf Under New Rules,” Dow Jones News Wire, 24 Oct. 2011. Reproduced athttp://www.firstenercastfinancial.com/news/story/45441-us-govt-approves-first-bp-deepwater-exploration-plan-us-gulf-under-new-rules

[3] Michael Craig and Jacqueline Savitz, “False Sense of Safety: Safety Measures Will Not Make Offshore Drilling Safe,” Oceana, 20 Oct. 2011http://na.oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/OffshoreSafetyReport_Oceana_10-18-11.pdf

Also see Oceana’s online appendix showing an analysis of each new safety measure’s effect on safety.http://na.oceana.org/sites/default/files/OnlineAppendix_SafetyReport_Oceana_10-19-11.pdf

[4] U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, “Application for Permit to Drill (APD) Approval Process and Definitions,” n.d.http://www.bsee.gov/uploadedFiles/APD_Facts_and_Definitions_BSEE.pdf

[5] See, e.g.: David Edwards, “New evidence of a massive oil slick near Deepwater Horizon site,” Raw Story, 1 Sept. 2011.http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/09/new-evidence-of-a-massive-oil-slick-near-deepwater-horizon-site/

Frank Whalen, “Oil Still Gushing from Bp Well in Gulf,” American Free Press, 2 Sept. 2011. http://americanfreepress.net/?p=341

Dahr Jamail, “Environmental Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico: The Escalation of BP’s Liability,” Global Research, 5 Oct. 2011. 
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=26947

Luis R. Miranda, “Gulf of Mexico Sea Floor Unstable, Fractured, Spilling Hydrocarbons,” The Real Agenda, 10 Oct. 2011. http://real-agenda.com/2011/10/10/gulf-of-mexico-sea-floor-unstable-fractured-spilling-hydrocarbons/

[6] John Amos, “Over 28,000 Abandoned Wells in the Gulf of Mexico,” 18 Oct. 2011. http://blog.skytruth.org/2011/10/abandoned-wells-in-gulf-of-mexico.html

[7] U.S. Dept. of the Interior, “Interior Department Issues ‘Idle Iron’ Guidance,” 15 Sept. 2010. http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Interior-Department-Issues-Idle-Iron-Guidance.cfm

[8] Siobhan Hughes, “Plugs Ordered on Idle Wells: Move to Permanently Seal Sites in Gulf Could Cost Billions but Create New Work,” Wall Street Journal, 16 Sept. 2010.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703743504575493782591743858.html

[9] U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, “Idle Iron Update,” n.d. (pp. 9-16) https://www.noia.org/website/download.asp?id=47290

[10] Jeff Donn and Mitch Weiss, “Gulf of Mexico hides 27,000 abandoned wells,” Associated Press, 7 July 2010. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20100707-Gulf-of-Mexico-hides-27-000-1068.ece

[11] Steven Kotler, “Planet Sludge: Millions of Abandoned, Leaking Oil Wells and Natural-Gas Wells Destined to Foul Our Future,” EcoHearth, 17 Aug. 2011.http://ecohearth.com/eco-zine/green-issues/1609-abandoned-leaking-oil-wells-natural-gas-well-leaks-disaster.html 

[12] U.S. Government Accounting Office, “Offshore Oil and Gas Resources: Interior Can Improve its Management of Lease Abandonment,” (GAO/RCED-94-82) May 1994.http://archive.gao.gov/t2pbat3/151878.pdf

[13] J.R. Nichols and S.N. Kariyawasam, “Risk Assessment of Temporarily Abandoned or Shut-in Wells,” C-FER Technologies, Oct. 2000.http://www.boemre.gov/tarprojects/329/329AA.pdf

[14] U.S. Government Accounting Office, “Results-Oriented Cultures: Implementation Steps to Assist Mergers and Organizational Transformations,” (GAO-03-669) 2 July 2003. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-669

[15] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Oil and Gas: Interior’s Restructuring Challenges in the Aftermath of the Gulf Oil Spill,” (GAO-11-734T) 2 June 2011.http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11734t.pdf

[16] U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Office of Inspector General, “Investigative Report – Island Operating Company, et al.,” 31 March 2010.http://www.govexec.com/pdfs/052510ts1.pdf

[17] U.S. Dept. of the Interior, “Interior Department Completes Reorganization of the Former MMS,” 30 Sept. 2011. http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Interior-Department-Completes-Reorganization-of-the-Former-MMS.cfm#

[18] U.S. Dept. of the Interior, untitled document distinguishing the areas of responsibility between the BOEM and the BSEE. n.d.http://www.bsee.gov/uploadedFiles/A%20to%20Z%20Guide%20web%20version%281%29.pdf

[19] U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, “BSEE Director Delivers Remarks at the International Regulators Forum 2011 Global Offshore Safety Summit Conference,” 4 Oct. 2011. http://www.boemre.gov/ooc/press/2011/press1004.htm

[20] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Actions Needed to Reduce Evolving but Uncertain Federal Financial Risks,” (GAO-12-86), 24 Oct. 2011. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1286.pdf

[21] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Preliminary Assessment of Federal Financial Risks and Cost Reimbursement and Notification Policies and Procedures,” 9 Nov. 2010. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1190r.pdf

[22] Sabrina Canfield, “Judge Denies BP Appeal That Might Have Killed Thousands of Claims, Courthouse News Service,” 24 Oct. 2011.http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/10/24/40864.htm

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Rady Ananda is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Rady Ananda

 

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Live Beyond Realization

Posted by Admin on June 29, 2011

June 24th, 2011 by Rev. Mark Kimmel

The following post is a joint venture with my celestial friends and Andromedan brothers and sisters. It contains information that I supplied based on my research. Nonetheless it is an important and timely message.

By admitting the false veneer of the 3rd dimension, you can take a big step forward in your soul’s evolvement. Seeing what goes on about you as the drama of others, and not becoming engaged therein, is a further step forward. It is what comes next in your personal development that is being called forth by the celestials and by your brothers and sister from other star systems: Live beyond realization.

We are living in extraordinary times in which the truth about events is slowly emerging. For many years you have been subjected to misinformation and lies, and the residual effects thereof, as perpetuated by governments and the mainstream media. The reporting of these is skewed to maintain the veneer of the 3rd dimension.

  • The crash of non-terrestrial craft (E.g. Roswell, New Mexico)
  • Back-engineering of alien technology from crashed UFOs
  • The extent of government cooperation with alien races
  • The truth about Earth’s moon
  • The truth about events on September 11, 2001
  • Mind control experiments and their on-going usage
  • The extent of environmental damage cause by the BP oil spill
  • On-going damage caused by “Aerial Spraying”
  • The purpose and uses of HAARP
  • Radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan
  • Radiation leaks at the Fort Calhoun nuclear facility in Nebraska

If you have any question about whether or not we are living in extraordinary times, review the following sample of “natural disasters” that have occurred over the last eighteen months.

  • Earthquake in Haiti — magnitude 7.0 (January 12, 2010)
  • Earthquake in Chile — 8.8 magnitude (February 27, 2010)
  • Earthquake in China — 6.9 magnitude (April 14, 2010)
  • Volcano in Iceland — ash across Europe  (April 16, 2010)
  • Flooding in Pakistan — 20% of country affected (July 2010)
  • Earthquake in New Zealand (February 22, 2011)
  • Earthquake & Tsunami in Japan (March 11, 2011)
  • Tornadoes in Southeast U.S. — 1,092 occurrences (Spring 2011)
  • Flooding of Mississippi River (April-May, 2011)
  • Flooding of Missouri River (June 2011)
  • Arizona wildfires (June 2011)
  • Flooding of Souris River (June 2011)

What is more important than the events, known or hidden, is your reaction to them, or your lack of reaction to them. Everyone is playing out roles that were agreed upon prior their incarnation in this 3rd dimension. The victim of an earthquake knew at a soul level that this would happen to them. People killed in tornadoes agreed to live to this end.

What is most important to recognize is that from a soul level all is being done out of love, all is being done to allow a soul to grow, and all is being done to assist others to awaken to the larger reality. We all live in oneness whether we recognize it or not. An individual who lives an extraordinary life serves as a light for those that get to know him or her. An animal that agrees to live in a cruel environment does so in order to help the humans involved awaken to the extent of their cruelty.

Phase one of moving to a higher consciousness is to recognize that there is more going on than is being reported by the mainstream media. This involves researching other sources (Personal experiences, Internet, and word of mouth) — all with careful discrimination — to determine the truth behind the larger picture.

The second phase of awakening is to see events, both what is reported and what you glean from other sources, as background for the on-going drama, and not necessarily involving you. Become an observer of events (a loving observer) who allows others to play out their particular role without being someone who overly empathizes with victims, who rescues others, who inserts their opinions into the lives of others, or who attempts to control the behavior of others. In other words, conform to the Law of Allowance.

The third phase of awakening into consciousness is to set aside all that surrounds you, and to put forth the effort to raise your individual vibration to a place where you no longer are a part of the drama: “Being in this world but not of it.” Learn to think from your heart. Raise your vibrations so that you can act as a beacon for others who may not yet be fully awakened and who are searching for answers. Thus the phrase, “Live beyond realization.”

There are many ways to raise your individual vibration. Find the one that resonates with you and pursue it diligently, for these are the days of change and you will need the detachment that comes from being one who stands above the chaos if you are to ascend to the new Earth.

You are being asked to raise your vibration to the 5th dimension so that you might play an active role in creating a new civilization for Earth based on that lighter way to live. This will in turn assist all in the universe to ascend to a brilliant new way of being. Earth is the center-point of this vast transformation. The next few months will reveal the path of each individual, your path. Will you put forth the necessary effort to turn away from the 3rd dimension, and align with the transformation of Earth and her humans to a lighter existence, an existence based on love?

I am grateful to be involved with messages such as this one and trust they are of value to those of you reading them.

In truth, Love and Joy,

Mark Kimmel

1.Check out my most recent posting at Athabantian: http://cosmicparadigm.com/Athabantian/

2. I gave a talk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado on January 7th. I believe it will answer many of your questions. Check it out at YouTube (In several parts):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNRGntVgSGU&feature=related

3. You may donate to my efforts by clicking on the “Donate” button at the left. Many thanks to all who have contributed.

4. My three books of the Paradigm Trilogy, “Trillion,” Decimal,” & “One,” are now available on Kindle at Amazon.com

5. The following book, “Transformation,” is available as an electronic book only.

http://www.cosmicparadigm.com/Books/Transformation/

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Scientist: Baby dolphin deaths unprecedented

Posted by Admin on February 24, 2011

Wendy Hatchett

AP – Institute for Marine Mammal Studies veterinary technician Wendy Hatchett lifts a dead bottlenose dolphin

NEW ORLEANS – A scientist says the deaths of about two dozen baby bottlenose dolphins is unprecedented in 30 years of studying dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico.

Moby Solangi says the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., has no record of previous mass deaths in which the majority were infants.

The recent deaths occurred in birthing areas off Mississippi and Alabama. Six bodies intact enough for dissection were a mix of stillborn, premature and full-term calves that died shortly after birth.

Solangi says possible causes include cold winter and disease. He said scientists are investigating whether there was a link to the BP oil spill. But he says only one dolphin species — and no other kind of animal — appears to be dying in unusual numbers.

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The real cost of cheap oil

Posted by Admin on January 17, 2011

BP OIL SPILL Disaster

See how destructive we can be!

http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article440692.ece

JOHN VIDAL – May 29, 2010 [REPOST]

Big Oil is holding its breath. BP’s shares are in steep decline after the debacle in the Gulf of Mexico. Barack Obama, the American people and the global environmental community are outraged, and now the company stands to lose the rights to drill for oil in the Arctic and other ecologically sensitive places.

The gulf disaster may cost it a few billion dollars, but so what? When annual profits for a company often run to tens of billions, the cost of laying 5,000 miles of booms, or spraying millions of gallons of dispersants and settling 100,000 court cases is not much more than missing a few months’ production. It’s awkward, but it can easily be passed on.

The oil industry‘s image is seriously damaged, but it can pay handsomely to greenwash itself, just as it managed after Exxon Valdez, Brent Spar and the Ken Saro-Wiwa public relations disasters. In a few years’ time, this episode will probably be forgotten — just another blip in the fortunes of the industry that fuels the world. But the oil companies are nervous now because the spotlight has been turned on their cavalier attitude to pollution and on the sheer incompetence of an industry that is used to calling the shots.

Big Oil’s real horror was not the spillage, which was common enough, but because it happened so close to the US. Millions of barrels of oil are spilled, jettisoned or wasted every year without much attention being paid.

If this accident had occurred in a developing country, say off the west coast of Africa or Indonesia, BP could probably have avoided all publicity and escaped starting a clean-up for many months. It would not have had to employ booms or dispersants, and it could have ignored the health effects on people and the damage done to fishing. It might have eventually been taken to court and could have been fined a few million dollars, but it would probably have appealed and delayed a court decision for a decade or more.

Big Oil is usually a poor country’s most powerful industry, and is generally allowed to act like a parallel government. In many countries it simply pays off the judges, the community leaders, the lawmakers and the ministers, and it expects environmentalists and local people to be powerless. Mostly it gets away with it.

What the industry dreads more than anything else is being made fully accountable to developing countries for the mess it has made and the oil it has spilt in the forests, creeks, seas and deserts of the world.

There are more than 2,000 major spillage sites in the Niger delta that have never been cleaned up; there are vast areas of the Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon that have been devastated by spillages, the dumping of toxic materials and blowouts. Rivers and wells in Venezuela, Angola, Chad, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda and Sudan have been badly polluted. Occidental, BP, Chevron, Shell and most other oil companies together face hundreds of outstanding lawsuits. Ecuador alone is seeking $30bn from Texaco. The only reason oil costs $70-$100 a barrel today, and not $200, is because the industry has managed to pass on the real costs of extracting the oil. If the developing world applied the same pressure on the companies as Obama and the U.S. senators are now doing, and if the industry were forced to really clean up the myriad messes it causes, the price would jump and the switch to clean energy would be swift.

If the billions of dollars of annual subsidies and the many tax breaks the industry gets were withdrawn, and the cost of protecting oil companies in developing countries were added, then most of the world’s oil would almost certainly be left in the ground. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

(John Vidal is the Guardian’s environment correspondent.)

 

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Feds sue BP, other companies for oil spill damages

Posted by Admin on December 16, 2010

Seal of the United States Department of Justice

Image via Wikipedia

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101216/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gulf_oil_spill_justice

NEW ORLEANS – A powerful plaintiff has joined the hundreds of people and businesses suing BP and other companies involved in the Gulf oil spill: the Justice Department.

The government, in an opening salvo in its effort to get billions of dollars for untold economic and environmental damage, accuses the companies of disregarding federal safety regulations in drilling the well that blew out April 20 and triggered a deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Wednesday’s lawsuit is separate from a Justice Department criminal probe that has not resulted in any charges.

“The department’s focus on investigating this disaster and preventing future (spills) is not over,” Attorney General Eric Holder said during a news conference in Washington. “Both our civil and criminal investigations are ongoing.”

The federal lawsuit filed in New Orleans names BP, rig owner Transocean and some other companies involved in the ill-fated drilling project, but not Halliburton — the project’s cement contractor — or the maker of a key cutoff valve that failed. Both could be added later.

BP said it would respond to the claims later but noted that it stands “alone among the parties” in having already stepped up to pay for the cleanup. It said in a statement that it will continue to fulfill its commitments to the Gulf and to cooperate with investigations.

“The filing is solely a statement of the government’s allegations and does not in any manner constitute any finding of liability or any judicial finding that the allegations have merit,” BP said.

The lawsuit makes it possible for the federal government to seek billions of dollars in penalties for polluting the Gulf of Mexico, beaches and wetlands, and reimbursement for its cleanup costs. More than 300 lawsuits filed previously by individuals and businesses, and now consolidated in the New Orleans federal court, include claims for financial losses and compensation for the families of 11 workers killed in the blast.

The judge overseeing those lawsuits had set Wednesday as the deadline to file certain types of complaints, though it was unclear whether the government was bound by that time frame.

“The Justice Department has left its options open to argue that there was gross negligence and therefore should be higher penalties,” said David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan who headed up the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section for seven years. “The government has not limited itself in any way with the filing of its civil lawsuit.”

The suit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

The government did not set a dollar figure in the lawsuit, saying the amount of damages and the extent of injuries sustained by the United States are not yet fully known.

Under the Clean Water Act alone, BP faces fines of up to $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled. If BP were found to have committed gross negligence or willful misconduct, the fine could be up to $4,300 per barrel.

That means that based on the government’s estimate of 206 million gallons released by the well, BP could face civil fines of between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. BP disputes the government’s spill estimate.

The government did not specify in its lawsuit whether it believes there was gross negligence, but it left open the possibility for such a finding later.

Besides BP Exploration & Production Inc., the other defendants in the case are Anadarko Exploration & Production LP; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; Transocean Holdings LLC; Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc.; Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and Transocean’s insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036. Anadarko and MOEX are minority owners of the well that blew out.

Transocean disputed the allegations and insisted it should not be held liable.

“No drilling contractor has ever been held liable for discharges from a well under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990,” Transocean said in a statement. “The responsibility for hydrocarbons discharged from a well lies solely with its owner and operator.”

Anadarko said ultimate responsibility may rest solely with the operator of the well — BP.

“As a non-operating minority interest holder in the well, we were not involved in the operations or decisions that occurred on the drilling rig,” Anadarko said in a statement. “We recognize that we may have obligations under federal law, and we will continue to look to the operator to pay all legitimate claims as it has committed to do.”

The staff of a presidentially appointed commission looking into the spill has said the disaster resulted from questionable decisions and management failures by BP, Transocean and Halliburton Energy Services Inc. The panel found 11 decisions made by these companies increased risk. Most saved time, and all but one had a safer alternative.

Halliburton and Cameron International, which made the rig’s failed blowout preventer, weren’t named as defendants in the suit. Halliburton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eric Schaeffer, who led the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil enforcement office from 1997 to 2002, cited three possible explanations for omitting Halliburton. The company could be close to a settlement, Justice needs more time to develop its case against Halliburton, or the government thinks it doesn’t have a strong enough case against Halliburton.

Schaeffer said he doubts the government will let Halliburton completely off the hook.

“I would be inclined more toward the first explanation,” Schaeffer said. “If they think Halliburton is maybe less culpable, they may be able to reach a settlement quicker. That could help them build their case against the rest of the companies.”

Bruce Parris, manager of The Dock restaurant and bar just a few feet off the sand in Pensacola Beach, Fla., said “it’s about time” President Obama started to hold BP accountable. He was standing on the restaurant’s deck, watching large tractors sift through the sand as part of BP’s beach cleanup operations.

“I’m all for anything. I don’t care how they get money out of BP. Just get it,” Parris said.

Separately, an administrator is doling out money to spill victims from a $20 billion fund of BP money.

The government’s lawsuit alleges that safety and operating regulations were violated in the period leading up to the explosion.

It says the defendants failed to keep the well under control and failed to use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor the well’s conditions. They also failed to maintain continuous surveillance, and to maintain the equipment and material necessary to protect workers, natural resources and the environment, the suit charges.

The Justice Department isn’t the first government entity to sue BP. Alabama Attorney General Troy King filed federal lawsuits in August on behalf of the state against BP, Transocean, Halliburton and other companies that worked on the project.

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