BUSINESS

Ex-BP worker claims in whistleblower lawsuit he was fired for airing oil cleanup concerns

01/25/2012 12:23 EST | Updated 03/26/2012 05:12 EDT
NEW ORLEANS - A former BP employee has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the company, claiming he was fired for airing concerns about the cleanup after the 2010 Gulf oil spill — the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

In a federal suit filed last Friday in New Orleans, August Walter claims one of his BP bosses manipulated data on shoreline cleanup in Mississippi and didn't give the U.S. Coast Guard "the true status" of what substances needed to be cleaned.

Walter, who helped develop BP's cleanup plans in Mississippi after the 2010 spill, claims that he was fired last month in retaliation for saying that BP wasn't following environmental regulations and was "picking and choosing what oil to pick up."

Walter also says he refused to misrepresent data so that the Coast Guard would believe cleanup activities in Mississippi were closer to completion.

"This was all based on money and had nothing to do with actually cleaning up the oil or meeting the (Shoreline Treatment Recommendations) or environmental requirements," the lawsuit alleges.

BP spokesman Tom Mueller said the company doesn't believe Walter's allegations have merit but will investigate "consistent with our personnel policies and code of conduct. "

"We believe we have demonstrated good faith in meeting our obligations in the Gulf and are committed to treating our employees fairly," Mueller said in a statement.

BP said in November that it had spent $13.6 billion on the response, including its efforts to clean up 635 miles (1,021 kilometres) of Gulf Coast shoreline affected by the spill. By then, more than 90 per cent of the affected area had "met the agreed upon standards" for transitioning from the cleanup phase to coastal restoration, BP said.

Walter's lawsuit claims BP took "short cuts," with one BP official allegedly saying BP only would clean up tar balls and not smaller oil debris.

The allegations in Walter's suit are limited to BP's cleanup in Mississippi. The company implemented similar plans in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida after the April 2010 blowout in BP's Macondo well triggered a deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and led to the oil spill.