Canada: First, do no harm: controlled burns and sea turtles

Last Updated: July 15 2010
Article by Dianne Saxe and Jessica Yaun

A coalition of animal protection and conservation groups filed a lawsuit on June 30 to stop BP from conducting "controlled burns" of spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico. They allege that protected and endangered sea turtles were being incinerated alive., As part of BP's efforts to control the massive amount of oil spewing from the Deepwater Horizon, the company is burning off captured oil. Unfortunately, according to several environmental groups, BP is burning more than just oil. The Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Animal Legal Defense accused BP of burning endangered and threatened sea turtles, including the rare Kemp's Ridley, as well as the endangered Leatherback sea turtles, endangered Green sea turtles, threatened Loggerhead sea turtles, and endangered Hawksbill sea turtles., Young turtles hide among the tarballs as if they were seaweed, and may be unable to escape before the oil is ignited.

On July 1, the wildlife activists amended the complaint to add, as defendant, the U.S. Coast Guard who is in charge of directing BP's containment activities. BP America Inc., BP Exploration & Production, and BP PLC were accused of violating the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. Section 1538(a) as well as BP's lease with the United States, which requires that BP complies with all environmental statutes and regulations. The Coast Guard was accused of violating its mandatory obligations under the National Contingency Plan requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. Section 1321(d)(M).

The next day, BP, the Coast Guard and the wildlife activists agreed to the plaintiffs' proposed order to allow wildlife workers to join oil-incineration vessels at sea to rescue sea turtles trapped inside the booms before burnings starts.

Animal Welfare Institute, et al., v. BP America Inc., et al., No. 2:10-cv-018660-CJB-SS, U.S. District Courts, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

LexisNexis. (July 2, 2010). Animal Protection Groups Sue BP For Allegedly Burning Endangered Sea Turtles Alive – Free Download of Lawsuit. At

[iii] Reuters. (July 5, 2010). Deal Struck To Save Turtles From Gulf Oil Burns. Planet Ark, At

[iv] LexisNexis. (July 2, 2010). Animal Protection Groups Sue BP For Allegedly Burning Endangered Sea Turtles Alive – Free Download of Lawsuit. At

Reuters. (July 5, 2010). Deal Struck To Save Turtles From Gulf Oil Burns. Planet Ark, At

Animal Welfare Institute, et al,. v. BP America, et al., Plaintiffs' Amended Motion For a Temporary Restraining Order. No. 2:10-cv-018660-CJB-SS, U.S. District Courts, Eastern District of Louisiana, At

[vii] Reuters. (July 5, 2010). Deal Struck To Save Turtles From Gulf Oil Burns. Planet Ark, At

Laurel Brubaker Calkins. (July 1, 2010). BP Kills Turtles in Oil Containment Burns, Suit Says. Bloomberg Businessweek, At

LexisNexis. (July 2, 2010). Animal Protection Groups Sue BP For Allegedly Burning Endangered Sea Turtles Alive – Free Download of Lawsuit. At

[x] Animal Welfare Institute, et al,. v. BP America, et al., Amended Complaint for Declaration and Injunctive Relief. No. 2:10-cv-018660-CJB-SS, U.S. District Courts, Eastern District of Louisiana, At

[xi] Reuters. (July 5, 2010). Deal Struck To Save Turtles From Gulf Oil Burns. Planet Ark, At

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