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A federal judge on Thursday ruled in favor of Transocean and BP oil, dismissing third-party environmental claims in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation. The judge claimed that the fact that the oil flow has stopped makes those lawsuits irrelevant.
“The injunction at this stage would be useless, as not only is there no ongoing release from the well, but there is also no viable offshore facility from which any release could possibly occur,” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier wrote. “The Macondo well is dead, and what remains of the Deepwater Horizon vessel is on the ocean floor, where it capsized and sank in 5,000 feet of water.
“Moreover, BP and the agencies comprising the Unified Area Command have been and are cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico. An injury is not redressable by a citizen suit when the injury is already being addressed.”
Federal Judge Barbier is overseeing the massive, consolidated oil spill litigation, which has been divided into “bundles,” based upon the nature of the claims. The D1 bundles were lawsuits filed by third part environmental groups. D1 bundle alleges that the spill caused environmental damages under the Clean Water Act; the Endangered Species Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act.
More than 100,000 people have filed lawsuits related to the massive deepwater oil spill. Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, operated by BP, exploded and burned 50 miles off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010, killing 11 and setting off the worst oil spill in history. Millions of gallons of oil were spilled in the next 87 days.
Judge Barbier claims that the plaintiffs must prove ongoing violations, which it cannot because the oil is no longer spilling. “The fundamental argument is that this is all moot because the well is sealed,” Barbier said.
During the hearing, Ervin Gonzales, of the plaintiff steering committee, said the cleanup has not been adequate and “the environment is suffering.” Greg Buppert, an attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, told Barbier at the hearing that “the Endangered Species Act is not linked to the well spill; it is linked to the take of species.”
In response, Barbier cited the federal government’s investigation of the spill. Federal attorneys have said that criminal charges will be filed if the investigation turns up evidence of willful negligence by the defendants. Because of the continuing investigation, the government has tried to keep certain issues undercover. For instance, autopsy results of the hundreds of dead baby dolphins that have washed up along the Gulf Coast have been kept private, and independent scientists have not been allowed to conduct their own autopsies.
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