The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has temporarily suspended BP Exploration and Production, Inc., BP PLC and affiliated companies (BP) from new contracts with the federal government.
EPA cited BP’s “lack of business integrity” as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response.
Last month, BP pled guilty to 14 counts, including felony manslaughter – all arising from its conduct leading to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people and caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
In his letter of suspension to BP, EPA suspension and debarment official Richard Pelletier said that BP had 30 days to challenge the order.
“It is important to note that suspension is not imposed for the purpose of punishment,” Pelletier wrote. “It is a discretionary measure used to insure that the government conducts public business with responsible persons.”
BP can request a meeting within 30 days to challenge the order and to “provide further information about their present responsibility to provide services under federal contracts,” Pelletier said.
For the Deepwater Horizon investigation, EPA was designated as the lead agency for suspension and debarment actions.
Suspensions are a standard practice when a responsibility question is raised by action in a criminal case.
The EPA said that the BP suspension will temporarily prevent the company and the named affiliates from getting new federal government contracts, grants or other covered transactions “until the company can provide sufficient evidence to EPA demonstrating that it meets federal business standards.”
The suspension does not affect existing agreements BP may have with the government.
Under government-wide suspension and debarment regulations, suspensions generally may not exceed 18 months.
However, where there are ongoing legal proceedings at the time a suspension is issued, a suspension may continue until the conclusion of those proceedings.
Public Citizen applauded the EPA for its move to suspend BP from contracts.
“BP’s recent felony guilty pleas for the deaths of 11 people and the dumping of 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico demanded such an action,” said Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum.
“The EPA has defined the debarment period as ‘temporary,’ saying it will last until the company can show that it meets federal business standards,” Slocum said. “The debarment period must be for the duration of the five-year probation the company received when it pled guilty to criminal violations. Reconsideration of debarment should not occur until after the five-year probation period has concluded. The debarment must include all BP subsidiaries.”
“While EPA debarment is effective government-wide, individual agencies can request and receive waivers from the debarment order. We urge that no agency – including the Department of Defense – seek or obtain such a waiver.”
“If another violation of federal law or regulation occurs during the debarment and probation period, the debarment should become permanent,” Slocum said.