(CN) – BP is “corralling and burning alive endangered and threatened sea turtles” in its incompetent response to the Gulf oil spill, four environmental groups claim in New Orleans Federal Court. The groups say BP is killing Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green sea turtles, all of which are endangered, and threatened Loggerhead turtles. They seek emergency and permanent injunctions to stop the “flagrant violations of its lease with the United States.”
The Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Turtle Island Restoration Network, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund demand “an immediate halt to defendants’ actions that are killing endangered and threatened sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico as part of defendants’ efforts to contain the catastrophic oil spill that has occurred at defendants’ Deepwater Horizon facility in the Gulf.”
The groups sued under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Endangered Species Act.
“Recently, in an effort to contain the spill, BP began using ‘controlled burns,’ that involve using shrimp boats to create a corral of the oil by dragging together fire-resistant booms and then lighting the enclosed ‘burn box’ on fire. The ‘burn boxes’ are approximately 60-100 feet in diameter,” according to the complaint.
“Unfortunately, there are endangered and threatened sea turtles who live in the Gulf of Mexico and who are also being caught in the corrals being created by BP, including the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, which is listed as endangered, see 50 C.F.R. § 17.11, and is one of the rarest sea turtles on earth, the endangered Leatherback sea turtles, endangered Green sea turtles, threatened Loggerhead sea turtles, and endangered Hawksbill sea turtles. See 50 C.F.R. § 17.11 (listing all of these species as endangered or threatened). Because the turtles are being caught in the corrals, they are being killed, harmed, or otherwise harassed by BP’s ‘controlled burns.’
“Plaintiffs have checked the Federal Register and have found no indication that BP has ever applied for or obtained an ‘incidental take permit’ pursuant to Section 10 of the ESA that would allow it to kill or otherwise harm or harass endangered or threatened species. Accordingly, it is apparent that BP is engaged in the unauthorized ‘take’ of these species.
“BP could engage in controlled burns without taking endangered or threatened sea
turtles – this would require it to spend resources to increase its efforts to ensure that it has removed as many turtles as possible from the relevant areas before burning those animals.” (Parentheses as in complaint.)
The groups seek immediate and permanent injunctions, and costs. Their lead attorney is William Eubanks II with Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal of Washington, D.C.