The Gulf Restoration Network, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and Environment America last Friday sent a formal notice letter alleging that BP is violating the Clean Water Act 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.
A worker contracted by BP collects oil that reached the shore at Elmer's Island, west of Grand Isle, Louisiana, May 21, 2010. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)
Joel Waltzer, one of the attorneys representing the environmental groups, said, "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 5,000 feet of water, it can remove oil plumes from the gulf."
First, the groups want the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead to be plugged, but the "top kill" operation that was BP's most recent attempt to plug the well was declared a failure on Saturday. BP will attempt an oil containment operation over the next few days.
Meanwhile, oil is still spewing from the broke wellhead at a rate between 12,000 and 25,000 barrels per day, according to estimates given today by U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as national incident commander.
The groups will ask the court to order that BP:
"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 Louisiana Environmental Action Network. "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, a federation of 28 state-based, citizen-funded environmental groups.
"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," said Emmert.
The federal Clean Water Act allows private citizens affected by violations to bring an enforcement suit in federal court after filing a 60 day notice of intent to sue with the violator and with 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.
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