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Environmental "Trial of the Century" Gets Under Way

PHOTO: Oil found in Gulf wetlands in 2012. Courtesy: Craig Guillot, NWF
PHOTO: Oil found in Gulf wetlands in 2012. Courtesy: Craig Guillot, NWF
February 26, 2013

PHOENIX - Billions of dollars and the health of the Gulf Coast are on the line, as the trial against BP got under way Monday with opening statements in New Orleans. Based on provisions in the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act, the oil company could be ordered to pay $40 billion in damages.

According to Brian Moore, legislative director for the National Audubon Society, it's important to make sure there are enough resources to repair the damage done to the Gulf of Mexico, now and in the future.

"We believe this is a living disaster and we still don't know the full environmental impacts, and there's a single rule that we all should be reminded of - we've seen it posted in stores - which is 'You broke it, you've bought it,' and this is a broken ecosystem," Moore declared.

The Deepwater Horizon blowout in the spring of 2010 leaked an estimated 170 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, making it the largest environmental disaster in the nation's history.

John Kostyack, vice president for wildlife conservation at the National Wildlife Federation, said his and other conservation groups understand it's important to secure the money from BP to fully begin the restoration process.

"The Department of Justice has a responsibility to set a penalty amount that factors in BP's assets, and the risk that they will continue business as usual if their bottom line is not affected by any settlement," he stated.

Because of the Restore Act, passed and signed into law last year, 80 percent of the funds collected from BP will go to the restoration and health of the Gulf Coast, but those funds are on hold until the remaining cases are resolved. BP is accused of pressuring its drilling managers to "cut costs and rush the job" before the blowout that killed 11 workers and produced the massive oil spill.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ