EPA Calls for BP to Slash Dispersant Use

The Environmental Protection Agency is increasing the pressure on BP to ditch the dirty dispersant the company is using in the Gulf of Mexico—after the oil giant refused to observe its directive to switch to a less toxic chemical and disclose more information about its clean-up efforts.  

In a press conference with reporters Monday evening, EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson expressed disappointment with the company’s response, and said her agency will start its own environmental monitoring on the dispersants in the Gulf. The agency also called on the oil company to “scale back” its use of chemical dispersants by at least 50 percent. Responders in the Gulf, she said, are “approaching a world record” in the amount of dispersants used for a single spill.

Jackson said that she was “not satisfied” that BP has done “an extensive enough analysis of other dispersant options.” The agency, she added, would also begin its own tests to confirm whether BP’s assertion that Corexit is best dispersant option available “is accurate and supported by science.”

“We are still deeply concerned about the things we don’t know,” said Jackson. “We must make sure that the dispersants we use are as non-toxic as possible.”

Both Jackson and Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry stopped short of forcing BP to switch products, but said that the federal government reserves the ability to halt the use of dispersants altogether. Jackson said the decisions about dispersant use—and the resulting environmental trade-offs—have been among the toughest of her career. But she’s also said she’s reluctant to take them out of the toolbox, noting that “the number one enemy is the oil.”

“The BP spill has thrust upon us what could potentially be one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time,” said Jackson. “We live in a world where we’re making tough decisions based on little science.”


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.