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BP’s Permission Not Needed for Feds to Monitor Spill Effects

OK, this is just bullpucky. The government is doing all sorts of handwringing about how it can’t force BP to disclose information about what’s actually going on in the gulf. From McClatchy

BP, the company in charge of the rig that exploded last month in the Gulf of Mexico, hasn’t publicly divulged the results of tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.

Moreover, the company isn’t monitoring the extent of the spill and only reluctantly released videos of the spill site that could give scientists a clue to the amount of the oil in gulf.


The company also hasn’t publicly released air sampling for oil spill workers although Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency in charge of monitoring compliance with worker safety regulations, is relying on the information and has urged it to do so.

“It is not ours to publish,” said Dean Wingo, OSHA’s assistant regional administrator who oversees Louisiana. “We are working with (BP) and encouraging them to post the data so that it is publicly available.”

This makes it sound like the federal government has no power in this situation to get information out to the general public, bullpucky! Oh, wait, I said that already.

The EPA, the Coast Guard and OSHA don’t need anybody’s permission to take air or water samples. They don’t need anybody’s permission to ask those shrimp boat captains to wear a second air quality monitoring patch and turn those back to OSHA for analysis. They don’t need anybody’s permission to send their own remote cameras or submarines down to take pictures of the plume—at least NASA seems to “get” this, the space station folks have been taking photos of the oil spill without waiting for BP’s blessing.

BP may control the data from the patches on the shrimp boater’s sleeves and it may control its own data — which could still be pried loose with either an administrative or criminal subpoena, and probably should be — but nothing prevents the government from doing its own sampling. The notion that the federal agencies responsible for environmental, health and safety are somehow helpless bystanders is just nuts, or bullpucky. In fact, EPA, like NASA has already begun its own efforts.

Right now, there damn well better be somebody opening up a case file into violations of NEPA and Clean Water Act violations. And depending on how much particulate matter the controlled burning is putting in the air and how the VOC’s are evaporating, the Clean Air Act as well. The Federal Government’s response is being sold as an “all hands on deck” response. There is no excuse for this feigned helplessness.

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Cynthia Kouril

Cynthia Kouril

Cynthia Kouril is a former Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York under several different U.S. Attorneys, former counsel to the Inspector General for the N.Y.C. Department of Environmental Protection where she investigated threats to the New York City water supply and other environmental crimes, as well as public corruption and fraud against the government, former Examining Attorney at the N.Y.C. Department of Investigation and former Capital Construction Counsel at New York City Parks and Recreation.
She is now in private practice with a colleague whom she met while at the USA Attorney's Office. Ms. Kouril is a member of the Steering Committee, National Committeewoman and Regional Coordinator for the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, a member of the Program Committee of the Federal Bar Council and a member of the Election Law Committee at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She is active in several other Bar Associations.
Most important of all, she is a soccer mom.