Barbier dismisses citizens' master complaint

Steve Korris Jun. 21, 2011, 2:35am


Citizen suits for injunctions against Deepwater Horizon defendants stopped when the oil spill stopped, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled on June 16.

"An injury is not redressable by a citizen suit when the injury is already being addressed," he wrote.

He dismissed a master complaint that a plaintiff steering committee filed in December, ruling it moot and calling it useless.

He denied standing to the plaintiffs and wrote that defendants aren't violating the laws plaintiffs want him to enforce.

"Although an injunction need not return the waters to the pre-spill state, it must, however, provide some benefit or reduction in pollution," he wrote.

"In this case, no such benefit may be achieved by the court's injunction," he wrote.

"The Macondo well is dead, and what remains of the Deepwater Horizon vessel is on the ocean floor, where it capsized and sank in 5,000 feet of water," he wrote.

"Moreover, BP and the agencies comprising the unified area command have been and are cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico," he wrote.

"Plaintiffs here do not assert any deficiency in the federal and state remediation efforts, nor can plaintiffs or the court second guess existing governmental remediation decision making," he wrote.

The committee's master complaint asserted standing for commercial fishermen, processors, distributors, and workers in docks and plants.

The committee asserted standing for tourism and recreational businesses, their customers, retailers, banks, and property owners.

The committee asserted standing for non profit organizations that sued "to reform the organizational failures that led to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill, to address the removal effort and to restore the environment."

"The private plaintiffs have a direct interest in ensuring that a spill like this never happens again, that this spill is properly remediated, that the environment, natural resources and claimants' private properties are as fully restored as possible, that information regarding
the spill be provided to the relevant property owners and made public, and that all of these processes happen in a transparent manner, with an opportunity for full public participation," they wrote.

"In particular, plaintiff seeks an order enjoining defendants from discharging any further pollutants to the contiguous zone, ocean or exclusive economic zone and other waters of the United States," they wrote.

They asked for a complete list and amounts of oil and toxic pollutant releases.

They asked to sample the well for 10 years, at the expense of defendants.

They asked for copies of any reports defendants sent to regulators for five years.

BP moved in February to dismiss their complaint, claiming they ignored prerequisites to citizen suits.

"Plaintiffs proceed as if they are entitled to exercise the enforcement prerogatives of the United States," Don Haycraft of New Orleans wrote.

"They are not," he wrote.

He claimed penalties the plaintiffs proposed would run to $4,300 a barrel, and he objected to them bringing up money in a complaint for injunctive relief.

"To do so is to seek monetary relief through the back door or to improperly attempt to induce the court into making a factual finding that only the federal government is empowered to seek," he wrote.

He wrote that an underlying complaint of the Center for Biological Diversity sought such relief openly.

He quoted its original press release that it sought $19 billion in Clean Water Act penalties from BP.

Rig owner Transocean also moved to dismiss the master complaint.

Barbier dismissed it, finding plaintiffs didn't demonstrate an ongoing violation of statutes they based their claims on.

He wrote that "no future oriented injunction can provide any meaningful relief for plaintiffs in terms of stopping discharges that already concluded in mid-July 2010."

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