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BP: We Won’t Go Changing To Try And Please The EPA

Novel. When the Environmental Protection Agency tells you to stop using toxic substances on American territory, I had no idea the answer could be, simply, no.

BP has told the Environmental Protection Agency that it cannot find a safe, effective and available dispersant to use instead of Corexit, and will continue to use that chemical application to help break up the growing spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP was responding to an EPA directive Thursday that gave BP 24 hours to identify a less toxic alternative to Corexit — and 72 hours to start using it — or provide the Coast Guard and EPA with a “detailed description of the alternative dispersants investigated, and the reason they believe those products did not meet the required standards.”

BP spokesman Scott Dean said Friday that BP had replied with a letter “that outlines our findings that none of the alternative products on the EPA’s National Contingency Plan Product Schedule list meets all three criteria specified in yesterday’s directive for availability, toxicity and effectiveness.”

I think it’s time to start robbing banks, and then when told not to, explain that I couldn’t find a quicker and easier way to obtain money.

News outlets have reported that 100,000 gallons of an alternative dispersant called Sea-Brat 4 is sitting in a warehouse in Houston. But BP doesn’t have close ties to the manufacturers of Sea-Brat 4, I guess.

Plenty of experts believe that the best dispersant to use in the Gulf of Mexico, by the way, is no dispersant:

“We don’t know what the effect of dispersants applied a mile underwater is; there’s been no laboratory testing of that at all, or the effect of what it does when it combines with oil a mile underwater,” said Sylvia Earle, the explorer-in-residence for the National Geographic Society and former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “I would say, until we know more about the fate of the dispersants, I’d tell BP or anybody else who’s involved with this, whether it’s EPA or whatever, ‘Stop, just stop, don’t do it.’ ”

A second panelist at Markey’s briefing, Carl Safina, president and co-founder of Blue Ocean Institute, a New York-based conservation organization, was even more unsparing in his criticism of the use of a dispersant strategy, which he said had more to do with PR than good science.

“It’s not at all clear to me why we are dispersing the oil at all,” Safina said. “It’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind strategy. It’s just to get it away from the cameras on the shoreline.

“It takes something that we can see that we could at least partly deal with and dissolves it so we can’t see it and can’t deal with it.”

We’ve finally come to the day in this country when the corporations can pick and choose which directives from the government to follow.

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David Dayen

David Dayen