Animal Legal Defense Fund Files Suit Against BP for Burning Endangered Sea Turtles Alive

Posted on June 30, 2010

Immediate Protection Sought for Wildlife Being Illegally Killed in Gulf Clean-Up Efforts

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Sea turtleNew Orleans – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), along with the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network filed suit in federal court today against British Petroleum America, Inc., British Petroleum Exploration & Production and British Petroleum PLC (“BP”) for burning critically endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws. As part of BP’s efforts to contain the massive oil spill that continues to devastate the Gulf of Mexico, BP is using “controlled burns” whereby oil is corralled by fire resistant booms dragged through the water by shrimp boats and then lit on fire. Endangered sea turtles, including the Kemp’s ridley, one of the rarest sea turtles on Earth, are caught in the gathered oil and unable to escape when the oil is set ablaze.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by ALDF along with the other animal protection and conservation groups after notice was given to BP on Monday of its ongoing violations of federal law and the groups’ intent to sue. Under the suit, the plaintiffs have charged BP with violating the federal Endangered Species Act and the terms of its lease with the United States government for the Deepwater Horizon facility, which lease requires BP to comply with all federal environmental laws. The plaintiffs have asked the court to prevent BP from continuing to engage in burning activities in the Gulf of Mexico which kill or injure endangered sea turtles. The plaintiffs have also filed a Temporary Restraining Order seeking an immediate halt to the burning until, at a minimum, mechanisms are implemented that will prevent any additional sea turtles from being burned alive. BP could engage in controlled burns without killing turtles by removing as many turtles as possible from relevant areas before allowing them to be burned alive; to date, BP has taken no such measures.

“Our phones have been ringing off the hooks with calls from citizens outraged to learn that BP is burning alive some of the most critically endangered turtles on Earth,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “This catastrophic spill has already devastated the habitat of countless animals. BP needs to stop illegally killing protected wildlife and take responsibility for a clean-up effort that addresses this environmental disaster while staying in full compliance with animal protection laws.”

The plaintiff groups are being represented by the Washington, D.C. based public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal. ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing interests of animals through the legal system. A copy of the complaint is available upon request.