Judge: Oil Spill Responses Should Consider Harm Caused By Dispersants

“A federal judge has ordered President Donald Trump's administration to update its oil spill response plans and potentially limit the use of the chemical dispersants that were heavily used during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

In a ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California agreed with environmental groups that the Clean Water Act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to maintain spill response plans that reflect current science. Over the past three years, a flood of new research has blamed dispersants for a host of environmental and human health problems, including lingering effects from the BP disaster a decade ago.

“Judge Orrick’s ruling is a game-changer,” said Claudia Polsky, director of the University of California-Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic, which filed a lawsuit in January that argued federal rules on dispersant use were lax and outdated. “This is the first time a court has addressed whether EPA has a duty to keep the cleanup plans current and effective. The court said ‘yes.’””

Tristan Baurick reports for the New Orleans Times-Picayune June 3, 2020.