CHEVEL JOHNSON, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — BP Plc says Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has misrepresented its record in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, including how much it has spent on cleanup.
Geoff Morrell, BP’s vice president of U.S. communications, responded Thursday to comments made a day earlier by Jindal and his top coastal official, Garret Graves, during and after a meeting of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.
“Their political grandstanding contains patently false assertions, defies the demonstrated record of environmental recovery that has occurred across the Gulf, and defames the massive efforts of tens of thousands of people to foster prompt recovery and restoration,” Morrell said.
In a response emailed to The Associated Press, Graves replied, “BP is not a victim of this disaster. No matter what they say or do, the families of the deceased and the citizens of the Gulf are the victims and we are going to fight to hold BP accountable for their actions. BP’s campaign to portray themselves as the victim is shameless.”
During the council meeting, Jindal said BP has focused too much on its image and needs to turn its attention to covering restoration costs.
“BP needs to stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their public relations campaign telling us how great they are and start proving it by addressing their Clean Water Act and Natural Resources Damage liabilities now,” Jindal said. “While Transocean has stepped up to the plate and paid much of their liability, BP has not.”
Morrell said overall to date, BP has spent more than $26 billion on response, cleanup and claims.
“Repeated assertions that we have spent more money on advertising than this are grossly in error and seem purposefully intended to mislead the public,” he said.
Jindal praised Transocean Ltd. for pleading guilty to its role in the massive oil spill and agreeing to pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines. BP, which has agreed to a record $4 billion in criminal fines, is in litigation over civil fines.
A blowout of BP’s Macondo well in April 2010 triggered an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which BP was leasing from Transocean. The explosion killed 11 workers and spawned the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
“For BP executives to try to call our concerns ‘grandstanding’ is laughable,” Graves said. “They caused the worst oil spill in our nation’s history, are doing the worst cleanup in our nation’s history and we should sit idle and let them continue?
“Reports indicate that BP launched a half a billion dollar ‘Make It Right’ media campaign designed to improve their public image across the country while concurrently walking away from their responsibilities in the Gulf,” Graves continued.
“Just this week, BP had the audacity to file statements with the court suggesting that they are not responsible for paying any of the up to $17 billion in RESTORE Act funding for Gulf Coast states, counties and parishes for recovery and restoration,” Graves added. “Their gross negligence and misconduct has no limits.”
The RESTORE Act, passed by Congress last year, dictates that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties paid by BP be divided among Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas. Not only would a large chunk of that money be spread out evenly among the Gulf states, but the legislation also gives them some flexibility in deciding how the money is spent.
Morrell said suggestions that BP is “dragging its feet” with respect to Clean Water Act and natural resource damages payments “conveniently ignore that the law provides for these amounts to be determined through the judicial and regulatory process — to which BP is subject — not their own political whim.”
Jindal said in May that Louisiana will get $320 million from the $1 billion that BP has put into another pot for coastal restoration, but Graves said it likely will be years before Louisiana gets the money.
The council approved a plan for using 80 percent of BP’s as-yet-to-be-determined Clean Water Act fines to help restore the Gulf. U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said Wednesday they hope to put money into restoration projects within 12 months.
The blueprint is short on specifics because state plans aren’t yet complete and BP’s fines are in litigation. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will decide how much BP must pay under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
One way or another, Gulf Coast states will wind up with 54 percent of the money from Clean Water Act fines — or 67.5 percent of the share overseen by the council.
States get 28 percent directly and 24 percent for restoration, economic and tourism projects that they choose but which the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council can veto. The council itself will allocate another 24 percent for ecosystem restoration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will get 2 percent for a monitoring, observation, science and technology program.
The remaining 20 percent will go into a trust fund to cover the cost of future oil spills.