BP exerts too much influence over oil spill cleanup, Louisiana official tells senators

BP exerts too much influence over oil spill cleanup, Louisiana official tells senators

Date: Jun 29, 2011

BP exerts too much influence over oil spill cleanup, Louisiana official tells senators

BP is asserting too much control over efforts to alleviate environmental damage from last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and it's time for Congress to transfer authority directly to government officials, a key Jindal administration official told senators in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, praised BP for providing $1 billion to begin environmental assessment work, but also said government agencies can't compete with the "armies of attorneys, marketing firms, PR campaigns, lobbyists, scientists and other consultants" the company has assembled.

"It is a modern-day case of Stockholm syndrome whereby responders are dependent upon the financial resources of and have repeatedly shown signs of empathy toward the responsible parties who hold them financially captive to the detriment of the will and best interest of the public," Graves told the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.

Because BP controls the cleanup money, Graves said, BP has been able to move to "prematurely designate oiled areas as 'no further treatment.'" He also said BP is pushing to keep thousands of anchors used in the initial spill response in Gulf waters "where they may pose a threat to the environment, commercial and recreational fishing equipment and boating safety."

Graves also complained that BP must sign off on activities conducted by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, a consortium that includes BP, Louisiana and other Gulf states as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Graves called on Congress to end this "inherent conflict" between the financing sources and government agencies.

"I think the equation needs to be flipped over," Graves said. "I think the public needs to be in the driver's seat. By being able to control the checkbook, you can control what's in these workplaces, how the assessments are conducted, the timelines of the assessments."

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