Government Industry Links and Hidden Causes of Gulf Disaster to be Exposed Through Law

Greenpeace is using legal means to expose the true scale of the impact and the real causes of the Gulf oil disaster, describing links between government and the oil industry as critical.

Greenpeace submitted 27 separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to multiple federal government agencies and two Public Records Act requests to the offices of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, seeking information about chemical dispersants, government communications with BP and other oil companies, underwater oil plumes, impacts to marine wildlife, and oil drilling safety regulation.

“The Gulf oil disaster and the efforts to hide and downplay its impacts have revealed the extent of the oil industry’s grip on our government,” said Greenpeace Research Director Kert Davies, “Scientific researchers, policymakers and the broader public deserve to know the full scope of this disaster and what the government knows and isn’t telling.”

The federal agencies receiving Greenpeace FOIA requests include the:
* Department of Interior: Minerals Management Service/Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Geological Survey
* Environmental Protection Agency
* National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
* Navy
* Coast Guard
* Federal Aviation Administration

The scope of these FOIA requests were derived from our ongoing field research, tips from local activists and reporters.  Some of the FOIA requests seek information on:

Chemical dispersants:
Internal communications within and between the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard and BP concerning directives on dispersant use and exemptions granted to BP by the Coast Guard (EPA, USCG)

Details of the effectiveness of sub-sea dispersant application, how the Environmental Protection Agency has monitored BP’s use of dispersants, and the point at which dispersants have a greater environmental impact than leaked oil (EPA)

Flight records of C-130 aircraft carrying chemical dispersants (FAA, USCG)

Wildlife impacts:
Details of any communications about “carcass collection facilities” in the Gulf region (USFWS)

Details regarding turtles being killed in controlled oil burns in the Gulf region (USCG, NOAA, USFWS)

Details of any and all communications or information regarding any of 23 endangered, threatened, or species of concern in the Gulf region including sperm whales and sea turtles (NOAA, USCG)

Details of U.S. Navy flights contracted for whale and dolphin sightings in the Gulf region (Navy)

Oil drilling safety regulation:
Details of communication between the United States Coast Guard and ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and/or ConocoPhillips concerning the safety of oil rigs in the Gulf and/or the term  “blowout preventers” (USCG)

Details of all internal communications regarding the 23 blowouts that have occurred on oil rigs in the Gulf since 2006 (BOEMRE)

Details of any information concerning the 27,000 abandoned wells in the Gulf (BOEMRE/MMS)

Details of communications between the Minerals Management Service and the Offshore Operators Committee Deep Spills Working Group (BOEMRE/MMS)

Details of violations and inspections and the certification process of the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port facility (USCG)

Clean up operations:
Details of all communications regarding BP employees or contractors concerning their authority to police public lands. (USCG)

Underwater oil plumes:

Internal communications from NOAA missions to search for underwater oil plumes (NOAA)

Details of all meetings and correspondence between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and BP regarding underwater oil plumes (NOAA)

Communication between oil companies and state offices:
Details of any and all internal and external communications between Governor Bobby Jindal or any of his staff and the following companies: BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and/or the American Petroleum Institute (Office of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal)

Details of any and all internal and external communications between Governor Haley Barbour or any of his staff and the following companies: BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, and/or the American Petroleum Institute (Office of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour)

A full list of the 27 FOIAs and two State Public Records Act requests can be found here:

Greenpeace’s team on the Gulf Coast has been providing and supporting an independent assessment of the impacts of the oil disaster to the ecosystem and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. In August, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise will begin a three month expedition supporting independent scientists to investigate the impacts to Gulf wildlife, underwater oil plumes, and more.

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