Environmental Groups Urge Government to Slap BP with Maximum Civil Fine for Gulf Oil Spill

Oiled sargassum in the Gulf of Mexico, 2010. [Photo: NOAACC BY 2.0]

With the federal civil trial against BP scheduled to begin on February 25, Audubon and other environmental groups have mounted a letter campaign to urge the government to fine the company the maximum amount possible for the Gulf Oil Spill. So far more than 100,000 people have sent letters. Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Environmental Defense Fund will deliver the letters on Wednesday, February 13. 

“The Department of Justice has the opportunity to send more than $20 billion to help restore the ecosystems, economies, and communities still reeling from this disaster,” David Yarnold, Audubon’s CEO and president, said in a statement.

The federal criminal charges against BP have already been settled. This past November the DOJ ordered BP to pay $4.5 billion dollars in fines.

As for the upcoming civil trial, BP faces from $5 billion to $21 billion in Clean Water Act penalties. Under the RESTORE Act, 80% of those funds will help restore ecosystems, economies and communities affected by the 2010 oil spill. “BP needs to compensate the Gulf Coast in the form of civil damages,” says Yarnold. “The rule has to be: You break it, you buy it.”

The company and government may reach a settlement before the trial, but there’s no word on that yet.

The massive spill killed an untold number of wildlife. Some 7,000-23,000 birds died, and sea turtles, fish, and other marine life were also affected.

The effects are still being seen today: This past summer, researchers found chemicals from the spill in the eggs of white pelicans in Minnesota that winter in the Gulf. And scientists recently estimated that as much as one-third of the oil from the spill may be on the sea floor, mixed with sediment, putting at risk the marine ecosystem and perhaps even causing potential harm to commercial fisheries in the future, Nature reports.

The explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drill rig occurred nearly three years ago, on April 20, 2010, but the social, economic, and environmental repercussions will take far longer to understand and address.

SPEAK UP: To send a letter to the DOJ, click here.

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