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Another ‘BP Squad’ should investigate dispersants

The Obama administration has deployed the ‘BP Squad’ of federal investigators to the Gulf to probe whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of government regulators or private companies related to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

As Peter Henning points out in The New York Times, the criminal probe focuses mostly on potential white collar crime:

“Rather than focus only on the oil spill itself, investigators are looking at a broad array of possible crimes, including false statements to the government, securities fraud and potential corruption of federal officials responsible for overseeing the offshore oil industry.”

This investigative team, led by the Dept. of Justice and including staff from the FBI, EPA, Coast Guard and other federal agencies, is a step in the right direction.

A similar probe should be launched into aspects of the post-spill efforts that touch on environmental and health hazards – particularly the use of dispersants. Questions about the effects of Corexit on ocean ecosystems and human health continue to swirl. The EPA greenlighted BP’s use of dispersants throughout the catastrophe, eventually releasing one set of test data on dispersants, which scientists say is not enough and not based on the right testing.

An EPA whistleblower has recently come forward alleging the EPA has okayed BP’s use of controversial dispersants as “a mechanism to help BP save millions in fines.”

EPA Whistleblower on MSNBC, July 29, 2010

Some scientists contend dispersants could ultimately affect human health- Dr. Susan Shaw told NPR’s Living on Earth:

“The dispersant acts like a delivery system for oil in the water. And oil contains hundreds of compounds that are toxic to every organ in the body and many are carcinogens. So if you have the dispersants making that oil more easily moving into cells and organs of the body, you have a much more toxic oil than just crude oil alone.”

Yet earlier this month, a NOAA official told a Senate commitee that NOAA isn’t testing Gulf seafood for dispersants:

NOAA official testifies to Senate committee, July 15, 2010

It doesn’t help that the Nalco, the company who manufactures Corexit, will not publicly disclose the ingredients of these dispersants (but they have reportedly disclosed the ingredients to the EPA).

Federal regulators, including the EPA and NOAA, should be safeguarding human and environmental health, and should be held accountable for anything they may have overlooked – purposely or not – in the aftermath of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

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