On March 20, Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, issued a statement about BP’s ability to bid on new oil contracts:
Can a company behind the biggest environmental catastrophe in the country’s history clean up its act in four months?
Most people would say “absolutely not.” But, astoundingly, the Department of Interior (DOI) has said “yes.”
Late last week, the DOI decided to allow BP – which behaved so badly that the federal government just four months ago suspended it from bidding on federal contracts – to participate in today’s lease auction.
If the corporation’s suspension has not been lifted after the 90-day review of the auction, BP’s leases will be offered to the second-highest bidder. This puts pressure and unreasonable time constraints on the U.S. Environment Protection Agency to lift BP’s suspension from federal contracts.
Allowing BP to bid is unacceptable. The purpose of this type of suspension – which was put in place in November after a BP-affiliated company pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster – is to protect taxpayers from negligent and criminal contractors. By blatantly disregarding the intent, the government is turning what should be an effective tool to protect taxpayers into a paper tiger.
A return to decision-making that prioritizes revenue collection above all else is a return to the regulatory climate that contributed to the Gulf of Mexico tragedy.
When announcing the criminal settlement with BP, the Department of Justice stated that the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion “resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence.”
... We call on the DOI to put prudence and safety over profit by upholding its original position to ban BP from bidding on offshore leasing while under suspension.
Later in the day on March 20, Slocum issued another statement, which read, in part:
Once confident that it could quickly resolve its suspension, BP declined a provisioned offer by the Department of Interior (DOI) to participate in today’s auction of new Gulf of Mexico offshore drilling leases, suggesting that the corporation does not feel it can resolve the contract suspension within the time it takes the department to review new bids and award them to oil companies.
The Department late last week decided to buck the suspension and allow BP to participate in today’s lease auction, likely an attempt to drive up lease bids.
Public Citizen quickly called on its activists to contact the regional office of the DOI and tell officials that BP – which was behind the biggest environmental catastrophe in the country’s history – should not be allowed to get any more oil leases in the Gulf.
The response was overwhelming; it appears that hundreds of people called the DOI, swamping the office’s phone lines.
In the days following the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, President Barack Obama vowed that his administration would hold BP accountable for the disaster.
Public Citizen has vowed to hold the government accountable to its pledge, and that includes pushing the government to maintain the suspension for a judicious time period and to fight back against agencies’ attempts to circumvent the intent of the suspension.
To learn more, visit http://www.citizen.org.
Tyson Slocum is director of Public Citizen's Energy Program, covering climate change, coal, oil, fracking, nuclear energy, renewables and commodity market oversight. He covers the regulation of electricity, natural gas and petroleum markets, including commodity futures and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdictional matters to promote transparency. Prior to working for Public Citizen, Slocum was an analyst at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. He received his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and grew up in Newport, R.I.