Judgement Day for BP. Motion to extend deadline for seafood industry settlement rejected. TransCanada makes a boo-boo.
You are in the current Gulf Watchers BP Catastrophe AUV #604. AUV #603 is here.
|Follow the Gulf Watchers tag by going clicking on the heart next to the Gulf Watchers tag at the bottom of this diary.||Follow the Gulf Watchers Group by going here and clicking on the heart next to where it says "Follow" in the Gulf Watchers Group profile on the right. You will have to scroll down a little to see the profile.||Bookmark this link to find the latest Gulf Watchers diaries.|
Gulf Watchers Diaries will be posted on every other Tuesday afternoon.
Please be kind to kossacks with bandwidth issues. Please do not post images or videos. Again, many thanks for this.
Judge okays $4 billion BP criminal settlement.
A federal judge on Tuesday approved an agreement for BP PLC to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the company's role in the 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.Background follows in next story...
In a Federal courtroom in New Orleans today, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance has said she will announce her decision on whether she will accept or reject a criminal plea deal that BP reached with the Justice Department over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico rig explosion and oil spill.
The hearing was scheduled to begin at 10AM, and extra room has been provided for the overflow crowd.
It’s expected to be a crowded and emotional hearing. The judge has arranged for an overflow courtroom to be available that will carry an audio feed of the proceedings from the main courtroom.In a joint memo filed by BP and the Department of Justice, both entities maintain the plea deal is both "fair and appropriate".
The memo says the core message of the plea deal is that “criminal misconduct will have enormous ramifications — financial, legal, reputational, and other — for any company and any individual who fails to abide by the standards of care when drilling in U.S. waters or on the U.S. outer continental shelf.”Vance has received thirty statements from victims of the accident and their families, and those statements call for more stringent measures to be enforced on the company.
In the joint motion defending the plea agreement filed two weeks ago, BP and the Justice Department argued that the $4 billion in criminal penalties should be placed in the context of other consequences involving BP and its employees, including:
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the Gulf gusher litigation, rejected a motion by Texas attorney Brett Coon, who represents thousands of claimants in the class-action settlement, which sought to extend the deadline for fishing vessel owners and others to join in the $2.3 billion lawsuit.
Coon filed a motion seeking to push back the deadline for seafood-related losses to be filed until April 22, contending that the quick turnaround since the deal was approved was an issue. In the filing, Coon said additional time was necessary because the deal is "massive, extraordinarily complicated, and confusing to read and interpret."
Barbier maintained that the time allotted was sufficient for all who wanted to be able to join in the class-action settlement, and that the deadline had been known since May of 2012.
In the judge's order rejecting the effort, Barbier said that "for months, it has been well publicized that seafood claims would be due" within 30 days of the court granting final approval of the settlement. Barbier noted that the court first mentioned the deadline in early May 2012.
During a public hearing at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference in New Orleans earlier this month, scientists and fishermen gathered to discuss ongoing research about the effects of the spill.
Grand Isle fisherman Dean Blanchard asked two senior scientists at the hearing why the Food and Drug Administration continues to say its testing of shrimp and other seafood taken from Louisiana waters is safe when juvenile shrimp are still traveling through oiled wetlands in the Bay Jimmy area of Barataria Bay, in Plaquemines Parish, which is still off limits to fishing and shrimping.
Steven Murawski, a fishery biologist who served as the chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the spill and now is teaching at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, and Robert Dickey, director of the FDA Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory and the agency's Division of Seafood Science and Technology responded that the FDA has not found contaminant levels of shrimp that is being sold to be at unacceptable levels.
"The bottom line is that the seafood is as safe to consume now as it was before the spill," Dickey said. "We're back to background levels. We were in the fall (of 2010) shortly after the spill dissipated."Blanchard said that he and other fishermen were concerned that the Bayou Jimmy area had not been cleaned of oil and other contaminants to render it safe for fishing. Murawski agreed that the area needed close scrutiny.
"I think a number of studies talked about this week demonstrate that a substantial amount of oil remains in that marsh," Murawski said. "Seafood safety is a consumer issue. That area is closed because of contamination and it's important to make sure seafood is monitored."Association of Family Fishermen representative Tracy Kuhns voiced concern about what she viewed as inaccurate claims by scientists at the conference that dispersants to break up oil were never used in inland areas. Kuhns said she and others watched planes spraying dispersant on oil floating in water near Bay Jimmy after oil from the gusher began moving ashore in May 2010.
"We have video of the spraying and video of all that oil popping back up when it was sprayed," Kuhns said. She said she turned the video over to the U.S. Department of Justice, and nothing has come of it.Coastal researcher Donald Boesch, a New Orleans native who was a member of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, stated that charges of widespread dispersant spraying had been raised in Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama, but had not been proven.
"We found no evidence except for two incidents involving short flights, where the planes dumped their load shorter than they should have," he said. "There was nothing that we could document that was less than 10 miles from the coast."As Gulf Watchers and others have maintained, the situation in the Gulf will most likely show - as was the case with the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound - that environmental effects may take years to become apparent.
But questions and concerns still remain, Boesch said, including how to deal with the remaining oil contamination in marshes like along Bay Jimmy, or at Barataria Bay Mangrove Island, a brown pelican rookery that seemed to be recovering a year after the spill. But in 2012, the mangroves on the island were dying off, possibly because of rising water levels and the additional stress caused by oil pollution.
TransCanada contractors building the Keystone XL pipeline mistakenly planned their route and cleared several hundred feet of land through public property they had no right to work on, an Angelina County official told FuelFix.