Suing To Stop Industry's 'Fairy Tale' Oil Spill Plans

Government let BP, other oil companies get away with fiction

This page was published 14 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

The EPA has revealed the chemical ingredients list of what’s in the dispersant being put on oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. Earthjustice sought the information through the Freedom of Information Act.>

Here in Florida, the oil spill calamity in the Gulf of Mexico is poised to undo years and years of our hard work to keep Florida’s waters clean. That is a sobering and devastating fact.

So, it is with heavy hearts that we in the Florida Earthjustice office have turned our attention to the one thing we can apply our expertise to during this disaster: making sure federal rules are strengthened so that we don’t have to watch such a ridiculously and shamefully inadequate spill cleanup response again.

To wit, we’ve filed seven federal suits against the Minerals Management Service, the agency that’s supposed to regulate oil drillers. Our clients are the Sierra Club and the Gulf Restoration Network.

Our review of federal records turned up lax regulation and make-believe filings by BP about the company’s ability to handle a spill. For example:

BP claimed in its cleanup plan (approved by the MMS in July 2009) that it could vacuum up more than 20 million gallons of oil per day after a spill. BP’s actual recovery rate in the current spill has been about two percent of that. We have filed suit to challenge the MSS’s clearly arbitrary approval of the plan. This is especially critical because BP’s other rigs are operating with that same fairy tale spill recovery plan, rubber-stamped by the MMS.

We also discovered that the MMS gave a blanket, illegal exemption from critical environmental and safety requirements to all oil drilling companies in the Gulf. Oil drilling companies are supposed to include spelled-out scenarios for, among other things, the amount of oil that would be released in the "worst-case scenario" and the "blow out scenario," but federal authorities at MMS gave all the companies a pass on that requirement. We filed challenges to five deepwater exploratory drilling plans which were approved using the illegal exemption.

We’re also working to find out what, exactly, is in the chemical dispersants being sprayed in unprecedented amounts in the Gulf. We filed a Freedom of Information Act petition to find out what the chemicals are, so that we can better determine their impacts to the water and to Gulf wildlife.

Every day the amount of oiled wildlife increases, and every day the nightmare on our beloved coast gets worse.

David Guest worked at Earthjustice from 1990 to 2016, as the managing attorney of the Florida regional office. His countless legal battles were, in one way or another, all about water. His motivation to protect Florida’s water came from years of running boats in the state’s rivers and lakes, which convinced him that waterways are many people’s spiritual connection to nature.