Landrieu: Lift suspension against BP buying drilling leases

03 07, 2013 by The Advocate

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she wants to see a resolution to the “temporary” suspension from BP purchasing new Gulf of Mexico leases under the argument that it sets a bad “double jeopardy” precedent against the whole oil-and-gas industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency imposed the temporary suspension against BP in November — the same day as the last Gulf lease sale — because of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Another lease sale from the Interior Department is coming up on March 20.

“I have a strong feeling no company should be regulated by multiple agencies, and I was very concerned about what I call double jeopardy,” Landrieu, D-La., said Wednesday in a phone interview.

“This (Obama) administration is persecuting the oil-and-gas industry, and I have had enough,” she said.

Landrieu repeated that BP did not ask for help and her position is a matter of principle and not about BP specifically. She said she is concerned about the “chilling effect” it could have on other businesses such as the petrochemical industry and associated small businesses.

BP is paying $20 billion in escrow, she noted, not to mention more than $4 billion in criminal penalties and the ongoing trial to determine civil fines and penalties that could exceed $17 billion.

“They are regulated to the teeth now,” she added.

Landrieu said she expressed her objections to outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, but that she did not demand or ask for the suspension to be lifted.

Landrieu, who is up for reelection next year, has in the past received support from the oil-and-gas industry.

The EPA headquarters were closed Wednesday because of a snowstorm, but BP’s announcement in November was that the temporary suspension was “due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response, as reflected by the filing of a criminal information.”

On the day of the suspension, Landrieu declined comment on the matter, saying that she had not yet studied the issue.

Marylee Orr, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Network, said she is “astonished” that Landrieu does not see the suspension as appropriate given that the 2010 oil leak was the nation’s worst man-made environmental disaster. Orr also said the comments come as “really bad timing” during the beginning of the BP civil trial.

“It’s very disturbing for everyone who’s here,” Orr said. “I would hate to say she’s being an advocate for BP, but I can understand how people would see it that way.”

Orr said the EPA had justified reasons for its temporary suspension.

Landrieu repeated that her issues are about the “double jeopardy” of BP being punished by the Interior Department, Justice Department and also the EPA. “I don’t think any of my constituents believe in double jeopardy,” Landrieu said.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said he would like to see BP’s suspension lifted.

“I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but I’d like to see it (lifted),” Alexander said. “We need all the drilling and energy production and economic development we can get.”