Lawyers for the U.S. government said in court Wednesday that BP’s suspension from new government contracts and oil leases the company hasn’t demonstrated it’s a responsible contractor.
The ban of BP and 20 affiliates was imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012 because of the Gulf of Mexico spill that followed the deadly explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon platform.
Until the ban is lifted, no BP companies can bid on any new government supply contracts or oil leases.
Contracts that were in place before the ban aren’t effected.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 workers and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
“Given this history, it was wholly reasonable” for the agency to “conclude that BP’s latest round of plans and promises is insufficient to demonstrate that BP is a responsible federal contractor,” Robert Dreher, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s environmental division, said in a court filing.
BP pleaded guilty in January 2013 to 11 counts of felony seaman’s manslaughter, two pollution violations and one count of lying to Congress in connection with the 2010 oil spill, Bloomberg said.
BP has argued that it is being unfairly punished because the EPA and other government agencies aren’t taking into account safety and operational improvements it has made since the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
The EPA also cited the company’s guilty plea in 2007 to one felony air pollution offense after a 2005 explosion at its Texas City, Texas that killed 15 workers. BP was fined $50 million for that violation.
A BP spokesman, Geoff Morrell, told Bloomberg in an email that “BP believes that the EPA’s disqualification and suspension should be invalidated. They are arbitrary and capricious, contrary to the law and an abuse of discretion.”
In December, a federal jury in New Orleans convicted a former BP engineer of destroying evidence related to the investigation into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Kurt Mix, 52, of Katy, Texas was found guilty of one charge of obstructing a federal investigation by deleting 300 text messages from his phone between himself and his BP supervisor.
BP is suing the EPA to lift the ban. It argues the suspension should have ended when it pleaded guilty in 2012 and paid $5.26 billion to resolve criminal and civil charges brought by the federal government, Bloomberg said.
The UK government has also asked for an end to the suspension, “saying keeping it in placed might jeopardize the U.S.’s reputation for having a fair international business climate,” Bloomberg said.