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In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon"

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20177
Nos. MDL 2179, (E.D. La., 09/14/2015) (Barbier, J.)

A district court dismissed an environmental group's EPCRA lawsuit against BP for failing to report the release of hazardous substances following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, holding no such duty existed. EPCRA derives its reporting requirements from CERCLA, which excludes petroleum, including "crude oil or any fraction thereof which is not otherwise specifically listed," from the definition of "hazardous substance." Despite this exclusion, the group argued that because petroleum contains the hazardous substances benzene, toluene, and xylene, the oil company was required to report the release of these substances under EPCRA. The group's interpretation, however, runs counter to the plain language of CERCLA, EPA's interpretation of the petroleum exclusion, and settled case law. CERCLA plainly excludes from reporting both petroleum itself and any constituent parts of released petroleum, and the group's interpretation would subject every oil spill to CERCLA coverage, rendering the petroleum exclusion meaningless.