BP Tells Louisiana to Butt Out
BATON ROUGE (CN) - BP sued Louisiana, claiming the state illegally ordered it to remove from state waters thousands of aluminum anchors used to tie down oil-collecting booms during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In its federal lawsuit, BP asks that top officials in the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources be enjoined from enforcing an Aug. 21 demand that BP remove the anchors, which the oil company claims the federal government told it to leave put.
The anchors were used during the 2010 oil spill to tie more than 3 million feet of oil-collecting boom to the seafloor.
BP claims the state order violates the Constitution's Supremacy Clause.
"In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the federal government took control of all response efforts," the lawsuit states. "As part of that federal operation, anchors were dropped throughout the Gulf of Mexico to hold in place lines of boom. This boom was used to catch oil that the wind and tides were bringing in from the Outer Continental Shelf, where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, before that oil could reach Louisiana's shorelines. Federal officials thus directed the use of boom - and the anchors that held the boom in place - to help avoid and mitigate environmental harm."
After BP capped the well on July 15, 2010, response workers collected the boom and anchors "wherever possible and reasonable," the lawsuit states. "Where the anchors were lost or buried deep in sediment, however, they were not collected."
The Coast Guard evaluated the anchors that were left after boom was removed and "concluded firmly that these 'orphan anchors' should not be recovered because doing so poses an unacceptable risk to the environment," BP says in the complaint.
It claims that because the anchors were placed under federal directive, they are subject to federal law and the state cannot intervene.
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a statement that Louisiana's request that the anchors be removed was the "latest in a series of inexplicable decisions by the state of Louisiana."
"After a series of thorough studies, the U.S. Coast Guard determined that those anchors should not be removed because doing so poses an unacceptable risk to the environment," Morrell said Friday. "Given their arbitrariness, the department's decisions smack of nothing more than political gamesmanship seemingly calculated to mislead the public and gain some sort of litigation advantage. Moreover, as a matter of law, any attempt by Louisiana officials to order BP to act contrary to federal instructions in preempted by federal law and BP cannot be punished under state law for doing what federal law requires."
State officials did not respond to a request for comment Friday, but reports in the Times-Picayune dating back to 2010 cite fishermen's complaints of the dangers of navigating in waters with "orphan anchors."
One fisherman told the Times-Picayune that his 25-foot boat nearly capsized when an anchor left by BP snagged his fishing net and pulled his boat from side to side.
That December 2010 story describes the aluminum Danforth anchors as almost 3 feet tall and 75 lbs. The Times-Picayune reported that when BP-hired crews removed boom they often cut it loose from the anchor and left the anchor with the ropes that once connected it to the boom still attached.
BP claims in its lawsuit that "it is simply not possible" for it to comply with the Coast Guard's directive that BP not remove the uncollected anchors and comply with state's demand to remove the anchors.
BP seeks a declaration that the state's demand is pre-empted by federal law.
BP is represented by Antonio J. Rodriguez with Fowler Rodriguez, of New Orleans.
On Sept. 30, BP is headed back to Federal Court in New Orleans for the second phase of the civil trial on damages caused by the oil spill.
This phase of the trial is to determine how much oil spilled during the 87 days the well was uncapped. The trial is slated to last three weeks.