Environment watchdogs demand long suspension for BP

WASHINGTON — BP should be banned from receiving U.S. government contracts for at least the entirety of its five-year probation period because it has a proven track record of irresponsibility and dishonesty, Public Citizen said in a letter today to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In response to BP’s guilty plea to a range of criminal violations, the government last week temporarily suspended the corporation from bidding on lucrative federal contracts. However, news reports indicate the suspension may last only for a period of weeks.

Public Citizen, a leading environmental watchdog group, warned against a short suspension, based on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP’s long record of irresponsible activity and the company’s failure to reform.

“This is not the first time BP has promised to do better,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. “As evidenced by the willful actions and inactions that caused the Gulf disaster, and BP’s subsequent deception of Congress, it failed to live up to those promises. Its current promises to do better shouldn’t be given credence until the company shows through its actions that this time is different. Until BP demonstrates over a period of years that it is able to act responsibly, the EPA should debar it from receiving government contracts or new leases.”

BP is the Pentagon’s top fuel supplier and one of the government’s top 100 contractors, receiving $1.47 billion worth of federal money in 2011. This year alone – while under investigation for its role in the Gulf disaster – BP has won $1.1 billion in federal contracts.

Public Citizen said three independent reasons confirm that BP be debarred. First, the company showed that it is a “non-responsible entity” by its actions leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and blowout, which killed 11 people and caused the massive pollution of the Gulf of Mexico.

Second, BP has shown itself to be a habitual offender. In the letter, Public Citizen lists several violations of federal laws previously committed by BP. Debarment rules emphasize the importance of whether contractors have committed other offenses that indicate a lack of business integrity or responsibility.

Finally, BP has pleaded guilty to obstruction of Congress. BP falsely claimed that it believed the rate of oil flowing into the Gulf to be 5,000 barrels per day, though its internal estimates showed rates far higher. Under debarment guidelines, special attention is paid to crimes of deceit, since they so centrally implicate a company’s ability to operate responsibly and for government’s ability to rely on information provided by the contractor.

Read the letter here.

Public Citizen is also collecting signatures on a petition calling for BP’s debarment. Find more information on this effort here.

Photo: A Brown Pelican tries to raise its wings on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast after being drenched in oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. June 3, 2010. An April 20, 2010 explosion at the offshore platform killed 11 men, and the subsequent leak released an estimated 172 million gallons of petroleum into the gulf. Charlie Riedel/AP



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