Will BP Really Be Banned from Federal Contracts?

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=oil+barrels&search_group=&orient=&search_cat=&searchtermx=&photographer_name=&people_gender=&people_age=&people_ethnicity=&people_number=&commercial_ok=&color=&show_color_wheel=1#id=44619022&src=2ac32ff94bd43579461912ec363f0361-1-77">TFoxFoto</a>/Shutterstock

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


There are several interesting things to note following Wednesday’s announcement that BP has been barred from new federal contracts. First, the Department of Interior announced that the oil giant is also barred from obtaining new leases “unless and until” it resolves the issues that got it barred from contracts.

But as Rena Steinzor, a professor of law at the University of Maryland and the president of the Center for Progressive Reform, points out, BP just won 43 new leases in the Gulf of Mexico in June. And in September, BP got $1.38 billion in new Department of Defense contracts. The debarment doesn’t affect current leases. The DOD is the primary agency contracting with BP, and BP was its largest fuel supplier last year. And while DOD has said it doesn’t plan to apply for a waiver from the debarment, either the agency or BP could still find ways of getting around it, writes Steinzor:

As DOD’s silence implies, the real question here is what will happen next. Under the law, a temporary debarment imposed without the company’s consent cannot exceed 30 days. BP must be given the opportunity to rebut the charges and can challenge any final decision in court. Although some courts have concluded that parties do not have any right to do business with the government, others have said that contractors have a “liberty interest” in continuing to do business with the government unless they are cut off for “just cause,” meaning that EPA will be compelled to explain itself quite thoroughly if the matter is litigated.

Even more disturbing, individual government agencies and departments may also waive debarment and do business with banned companies for “compelling reasons,” a term every bit as loose and loophole-riddled as it sounds. If DOD goes this route and the President doesn’t back EPA, even this temporary debarment will vaporize as quickly as it materialized. There can be little doubt that BP lawyers have pitched a tent outside the office of the Defense Logistics Agency employee in charge of its case file.

The EPA’s move to block BP from new contracts is laudable, but it might not be the final word.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate