U.S. Senator Blasts BP for Cleanup

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An excavator loads a truck with oil sands at the Suncor mine near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada in 2009. Environmental groups that oppose oil sands mining have pointed to delayed and canceled projects as a sign of recent success.

Senator Blasts BP Cleanup and Judge Dismisses BP Lawsuit

A U.S. Senator is blasting BP for trying to run from its cleanup responsibilities two years after the nation’s worst offshore oil spill. Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter (above) criticized the cleanup at a field briefing in New Orleans of the Committee on Environment and Public Works (which he sits on). Vitter expressed frustration that more is not being done to clean up about 200 miles of oiled Louisiana coast. Vitter and other Louisiana officials contend the Coast Guard has allowed BP to wind down cleanup operations prematurely, a charge the Coast Guard denies. BP was invited to appear at yesterday’s field briefing, but did not. A BP spokesman says the issues “discussed at the briefing are the subject of ongoing litigation” and because of that BP was “unable to participate.” But he added that BP’s “commitment to the Gulf region has not changed.”

A federal judge is dismissing claims by BP fuel dealers that the 2010 oil spill diminished the value of the oil giant’s brand and cost them business. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s ruled yesterday that dealers’ claims against BP aren’t viable under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, general maritime law or state law. All claims by BP dealers are excluded from the company’s proposed settlement of billions of dollars with other businesses and individuals who blame the spill for economic damages. Barbier also tossed out claims by Gulf Coast homeowners who claim the spill hurt their property values even though no oil physically touched their property and they haven’t sold their homes.

Gov. Robert Bentley is asking for federal assistance for five more counties affected by Hurricane Isaac. He sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency saying Covington, Dallas, Geneva, Monroe and Perry counties in south and west Alabama suffered $2.5 million in damage. Baldwin, Mobile and Pickens counties have already been approved for aid. The money covers debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair or replacement of public facilities and some non-profit facilities damaged by the hurricane.

Utilities often use a risk-management technique called “hedging” to protect themselves from wild swings in the price of natural gas, crude oil, or electricity. A member of the state Public Service Commission says these hedging agreements have added nearly $245 million to the bills of Alabama Gas Corp. customers since the state’s largest natural gas distributor started the practice in 2003. PSC member Terry Dunn says Alagasco is one of many utilities that saw hedging “go very badly in recent years.” He says it points to the need for the PSC to re-examine its rules on hedging agreements. An Alagasco spokeswoman says the company’s last hedging agreement ends in March and it sees no need for any more in the near future.

Birmingham School Superintendent Craig Witherspoon may be at the center of months of heated debate and a state takeover of city schools, but he’s also one of nine finalists for superintendent of the year. The School Superintendents of Alabama announced the finalists yesterday. The winner will be announced during their conference next week. The Birmingham News reports the finalists are nominated by other superintendents in their district and undergo extensive interviews. Witherspoon’s tenure with Birmingham City School has been marked by a vocal campaign by five of the nine school board members to fire him. The state stepped in, ordered the board not to fire Witherspoon, and took over financial oversight of the district.