BP has been barred from doing new business with the United States government for misdeeds during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico rig disaster and oil spill, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.
Earlier this month, BP pleaded guilty to more than a dozen felony counts related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, including 11 counts of manslaughter for negligence that caused the deaths of 11 workers on the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig. The company also pleaded guilty to felony obstruction of justice for lying to Congress over the amount of oil spilling into the ocean from its runaway undersea well.
"EPA is taking this action due to BP's lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company's conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill and response," the agency said in a statement on its website.
The ruling will temporarily bar BP from winning any new federal oil leases, the Interior Department said in a statement. The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the impact of the ruling on BP's military fuel contracts. BP is one of the largest holders of federal oil leases and has deep ties to the U.S. military, with an estimated $1.35 billion in military fuel contracts for 2011.
The EPA's decision came the same day that the Interior Department planned to auction off roughly 20 million new acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico for oil exploration. BP will not be allowed to bid on those parcels, the department said.
The ban will last until BP can provide "sufficient evidence" that it meets federal business standards, the EPA said.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who harshly criticized BP's safety and environmental record during the 2010 spill, applauded the contract suspension. BP's guilty plea included admissions that a company executive deliberately provided false information to Markey's congressional inquiry into the size of the undersea leak.
"When someone recklessly crashes a car, their license and keys are taken away," Markey said in a statement.
In a statement Wednesday, BP says it had been in "regular dialogue" with the EPA over how to meet the EPA's business standards and avoid the ban. The company said it has instituted significant reforms in response to the spill, including making "key leadership changes," and creating a new internal safety and risk management division.
BP noted that the federal government already has granted more than 50 new offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico since the end of the spill, and that the company has seven rigs in the gulf that are "drilling safely." BP said it has invested more than $52 billion in the U.S. over the past five years and employs 23,000 Americans.
"As BP's submissions to the EPA have made clear, the company has made significant enhancements since the accident," the BP statement says.