BP has dropped any pretense of playing nice over the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history with a lawsuit filed Tuesday to reopen federal oil and gas leases. The lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency arrives at a time when the company has pursued a more aggressive strategy to reduce its payments for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that led to 11 workers’ deaths and leaked nearly 5 million barrels of oil.
In November, the EPA cited a “lack of business integrity” for temporarily banning BP from federal contracts. Although the CEO has characterized the EPA suspension as “inappropriate and unjustified as a matter of law and policy,” ProPublica reported that the move was a long time coming. Before the disaster, BP had been criminally convicted in four cases that indicate a long “corporate culture of noncompliance.” Even with the suspension, BP holds more leases in the Gulf of Mexico than any other companies and has resumed drilling.
As a federal judge in New Orleans considers separately whether BP acted with gross negligence in the rig explosion, BP has used recent developments regarding Halliburton to its advantage. The oil services company oversaw the cement pouring while BP’s Macondo well was drilled. In a letter to the court Tuesday, BP argued that Halliburton’s guilty plea to destroying evidence regarding well integrity should reduce BP’s own liability for the disaster, because of prejudice. The stakes are high since the court decision could subject the company to billions of dollars more in damages.
Beyond the lawsuits, BP has balked at the amount owed to businesses on the coast as part of a multibillion-dollar settlement. A judge recently rejected BP’s request to halt these payments, but it’s also concurrently launched PR campaign and “fraud hotline” asking people to report corruption, as BP CEO Dudley has downplayed the long-term impact on the Gulf’s beaches and ocean life.
On the heels of earning $2.7 billion in quarterly profits, BP officials have expressed frustration there are still unresolved concerns over the 2010 rig explosion. BP’s Chief financial officer said the company wants to reach “closure;” however, at the same time, CEO Robert Dudley warned the company is digging in on litigation. “We want everyone to know that we are digging and well prepared for the long haul on legal matters,” he recently told shareholders.