For Immediate Release, January 9, 2013
Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703
Appeals Court: Lower Court Wrongly Dismissed Claim Seeking
Public Disclosure of BP Oil-spill Contaminants
NEW ORLEANS— The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled today that a lower court wrongfully dismissed the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal claim seeking full disclosure of which chemicals spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Center had brought the claim under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
“The public deserves to know exactly what toxins were spilled into our ocean during the Gulf spill, so we’re very pleased to be a step closer with this ruling,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center.
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and spewing more than 200 million gallons of oil, methane and other toxic pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico. The Center filed suit during the summer of 2010, seeking $20 billion in penalties from BP and Transocean to be used for the full restoration of the Gulf, and also sought full disclosure of the amount of oil discharged into the Gulf, along with the identification and amounts of all toxic pollutants. The Center’s case was dismissed by the district court on June 16, 2011; the Center appealed to the 5th Circuit, resulting in today’s opinion.
The court of appeals reversed the district court’s dismissal of a claim by the Center that BP had failed to report the information required by the Right to Know Act, which will now return to the district court for a decision. The appellate court also upheld the dismissal of the Center’s Clean Water Act claims on the grounds that they were mooted by the Macondo well being capped.
“It’s a very important victory that BP could be finally forced to publicly disclose all the toxic components it spilled into the waters, but we’re disappointed by the dismissal of our Clean Water Act claims,” Sakashita said. “Throughout it all, we’ve insisted that those responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in America’s history should be held fully accountable for the profound damage they caused. The Gulf needs to be fully restored, both for the sake of its wildlife and for the people who depend on it for survival. We’re certainly not there yet.”
The spill killed thousands of birds, sea turtles, fish and marine mammals. Its long-term effects are still unclear, and restoration is ongoing.
The Center is represented in the case by Charlie Tebbutt of the Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt, P.C.