Citizen Groups Announce First Suit to Enforce Federal Environmental Laws Directly Against BP

Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and Environment America Intend to Use Federal Clean Water Act to Force BP to Full Disclosure and Deployment of All Means Available to Clean Gulf Waters

June 1, 2010   

NEW ORLEANS – Local, state, and national environmental groups announced today that they intend to use the citizen enforcement provision of the federal Clean Water Act to sue BP in federal district court in New Orleans to force a more effective response to the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), and Environment America announced that last Friday they sent a formal notice letter alleging that BP is violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf from the Deepwater Horizon drill site, by failing to accurately measure its plume and flow, and by failing to remove the oil from the waters on and within the Gulf of Mexico. 

“’Remove’ does not mean hiding oil beneath the sea surface or leaving it to naturally decay.  Remove means take away.  If BP can remove oil from miles beneath the earth, under 5000 feet of water, it can remove oil plumes from the Gulf,” said Joel Waltzer, one of the attorneys representing the environmental groups.

The groups will ask the Court to order the following relief (beyond plugging the well):

  • Measure and disclose the full amount of pollution released in this disaster;
  • Provide the best possible, most accurate 3-D footprint of the oil already discharged;
  • Disclose all technologies which may be employed to remove the oil on or below the surface of the Gulf and on coastal land; 
  • Remove the oil from the Gulf by all means and as quickly as possible, regardless of cost.

“The BP spill is a tragic example of what happens when corporations are able to flout the law,” said Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director of the Gulf Restoration Network.  “We are acting today because we want to ensure that BP is forced to act quickly, using every available technology, to clean up this destructive spill.”

“BP has put the health, safety, and viability of our coastal communities in grave danger, and has repeatedly failed to be transparent and fully cooperative with the government and the public,” said Marylee Orr, Executive Director of LEAN.  “This Clean Water Act enforcement suit is necessary to ensure that our communities and the environments that they rely on are made whole.”

“The BP fiasco is a tragic reminder that deepwater oil drilling is an inherently dirty and dangerous business,” said Heather Emmert, Gulf States Field Organizer for Environment America.  “Because BP executives failed to adequately prepare for or respond to this ongoing disaster, citizens are now stepping up to the plate to force a more transparent and effective response.”

The federal Clean Water Act contains a “citizen suit” provision that allows private citizens affected by violations to bring an enforcement suit in federal court after providing 60 days prior notice to the violator and to state and federal environmental agencies.  Citizens can seek a court order mandating compliance with the law and with all permit requirements, and mitigation of the harm caused by violations of the Act.

Founded in 1994, the Gulf Restoration Network works in the five Gulf of Mexico states to empower people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) fosters cooperation and communication between individual citizens and corporate and government organizations in an effort to assess and mend the environmental problems in Louisiana.  LEAN's goal is the creation and maintenance of a cleaner and healthier environment for all of the inhabitants of the state.

Environment America is a federation of 28 state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy groups working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.

            The environmental groups are represented by attorney Joel Waltzer of Waltzer & Wiygul, attorney David A. Nicholas of Newton, MA, and the non-profit National Environmental Law Center.