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US sues BP, eight others over Gulf oil spill

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:44 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States filed suit for the first time against BP and eight other companies for uncounted billions of dollars in damages from a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst in US history.

The complaint was filed by the Justice Department with a federal court in New Orleans, where thousands of individuals and small businesses have already sued the oil giant.

AFP file – A photo taken in April 2010 shows fire boat crews battling the blazing remnants of the BP operated off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the complaint alleges that “violations of safety and operational regulations” caused the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which sent nearly five million barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf.

“We intend to prove… that the defendants are therefore responsible under the Oil Pollution Act for government removal losses, economic losses, as well as environmental damages,” he said.

“We’re also seeking civil penalties under the Clean Water Act, which prohibits the unauthorized use of oil in the waters,” he added.

Holder went on to list a series of failures that led to the disaster.

He said necessary precautions weren’t taken to secure the well, the safest drilling technology was not used to monitor its condition, continuous surveillance was not maintained and safety equipment was faulty.

The defendants named in the suit were BP Exploration and Production Inc; Transocean Deepwater Inc; Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc; Transocean Holdings LLC; Anadarko Exploration and Production LP; Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; and QBE Underwriting Ltd/Lloyd’s syndicate 1036.

QBE/Lloyd’s, an insurer, was not being sued under the Clean Water Act and can be held liable only up to the amount of Transocean’s insurance policy coverage, the Justice Department said.

BP said in a statement that it would “answer the government?s allegations in a timely manner and will continue to cooperate with all government investigations and inquiries.”

The world’s third largest oil company has defended its response to the spill, which has included selling off assets around the world to raise 30 billion dollars to cover both clean-up and compensation costs.

It has estimated its exposure at nearly 40 billion dollars.

“Alone among the parties, BP has stepped up to pay for the clean-up of the oil, setting aside 20 billion dollars to pay all legitimate claims,” the company said.

“We took these steps before any legal determination of responsibility and will continue to fulfil our commitments in the Gulf as the legal process unfolds.”

BP owns 65 percent of the ruptured Macondo well, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. owns a 25 percent share, and MOEX Offshore, a unit of Mitsui Oil Exploration Co, owns 10 percent. Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig itself.

Justice Department lawyers have been conducting parallel civil and criminal investigations since the fiery explosion, which killed 11 workers and toppled the giant rig into Gulf of Mexico.

The rig’s collapse ruptured underwater risers, unleashing a torrent of oil that fouled environmentally fragile Gulf coasts and disrupted local fishing and tourism industries for three months before it was sealed in September.

Among the losses listed in the US complaint were “hundreds of miles of coastal habitats, including salt marshes, sandy beaches, and mangroves; a variety of wildlife, including birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals.”

In the Gulf itself, the potential damage extended to “various biota, benthic communities, marine organisms, coral, fish, and water-column habitat,” it said.

And it said the spill resulted in lost opportunities for “fishing, swimming, beach-going, and viewing of birds and wildlife.”

Holder said the Justice Department would continue to investigate the disaster and ways of preventing future spills, adding that the legal action taken Wednesday “is not a final step.”

“As our investigations continue, we will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those responsible for this spill,” he said.

“The full extent of potential injuries, destruction, loss and loss of services is not yet fully known and may not be fully known for many years.”

Source: SGGP

Alabama sues BP over oil spill

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 7:22 am

Alabama, Aug 13, 2010 (AFP) – The southern US state of Alabama has filed a lawsuit against BP and other companies linked to the oil spill “catastrophe” that soiled the Gulf of Mexico coastline, a state official said Friday.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, accuses British oil giant BP, Transocean, “and others responsible for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe” of causing serious damage through negligence and failing to adhere to safety standards.

The amount of compensation Alabama is seeking will be determined in court, state Attorney General Troy King said in a statement.

“BP said that this was their disaster and they would accept responsibility for it. Yet thousands wait while their claims are backed up in the system,” King said.

“Based on BP’s broken promises, their history of saying one thing and doing another, and now, new information that they have been secretly working to gain a legal advantage, further delay (of legal action) can only further damage our people,” King said.

He accused the energy firm of “retaining all the best expert witnesses, not because they need their services, but so the experts will be unable to testify against BP.”

The sun rises over the beach August 13, 2010 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. AFP

Alabama is seeking compensation, among other things, for destruction of the state’s natural resources; economic losses resulting from destruction of state property; and for the loss of taxes revenue.

The state also wants money for cleanup response and rehabilitation costs, and wants punitive damages imposed on the companies.

“BP is now on notice, Alabama intends to hold you good to your word and to make you put our state back the way you found it,” King said.

BP said Thursday it had paid out 347 million dollars in claims since May 3, after receiving 148,000 claims.

It said it has yet to deny a single claim, though some 40,000 claims are still outstanding or awaiting adjustment.

The company, which has seen its reputation take a beating in the US over the oil spill, insists it is doing the best it can and has promised to pay all legitimate claims.

The Macondo well off the coast of Louisiana began leaking after a massive explosion ripped through the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig April 20, killing 11 workers and causing the platform to sink two days later.

An estimated 4.9 million barrels have leaked into the ocean — enough oil to fill 311 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The disaster is the biggest maritime spill on record.

The spill affected the coasts of the southern US states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, as well as parts of the Florida and Texas coastline.

Source: SGGP