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An oiled rock along the Mississippi River shoreline near New Orleans following a fuel oil spill in April 2018. (Photo: NOAA)

Warning of Next Big Oil Spill, Advocates Seek Urgent EPA Action on the Toxic Dispersant Corexit

San Francisco, CA-March 25—The University of California-Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic today announced a lawsuit to compel the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue rules on the use of chemical agents such as Corexit (NASDAQ: ECL) to clean up oil spills. Instead of mitigating environmental harm, Corexit dispersants have proven to be more toxic to humans and the environment than the oil alone.

In the first procedural step for such a lawsuit, the groups today filed a “Notice of Intent to Sue” on behalf of environmental justice and conservation groups and individuals who personally experienced the toxic effects of Corexit in the Exxon Valdez or BP Deepwater Horizon oil spills or who have actively worked to ban these products in their waters.

“The EPA’s failure to update its oil spill response plan since 1994 is inexcusable, unlawful and very dangerous,” said Purba Mukerjee, a supervising attorney at the UC-Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic, whose students are part of the legal team in today’s action.

“The next major oil spill is a matter of when, not if,” said marine toxicologist Dr. Riki Ott, director of the Earth Island Institute’s A.L.E.R.T. project and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “When it comes to Corexit, the EPA has had the benefit of more than 25 years of scientific knowledge, advice from its own Inspector General, and extensive public input. Given the Trump administration’s plan to open up 90 percent of our U.S. coastal areas to oil and gas drilling, the need for action is critical.”

In addition to Dr. Ott, individual and organizational plaintiffs in the case are:

  • The Earth Island Institute, a non-profit environmental advocacy organization headquartered in Berkeley and acting as fiscal sponsor of A.L.E.R.T.
  • Kindra Arnesen, member of a commercial fishing family in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, who were sickened by BP’s oil and EPA’s authorized use of Corexit dispersants during the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
  • Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, an Iñupiat living in the now oil-industrialized zone of the North Slope in Alaska who has worked with Tribal Councils to pass resolutions banning dispersant use in Arctic waters where Alaskan Natives hunt and fish.
  • Alaska’s Cook Inletkeeper, which responded to the Exxon Valdez spill and spent two decades serving on a citizen oversight council created under the Oil Pollution Act.
  • Alaska Community Action on Toxics, whose founder and executive director Pam Miller found long-term health harm among Exxon Valdez spill response workers.

“The Beaufort Sea is wide-open for oil and gas lease sales this year. That’s our grocery store—that’s where we hunt and fish,” said plaintiff Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, who successfully advocated for over a dozen tribal resolutions opposing the use of dispersants in the spill response plans for the Arctic.

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