Markey wants BP to pay up

British Petroleum added $4.9 billion in quarterly profits to its nearly $18 billion haul so far this year – prompting Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts to grouse about the company’s continued wrangling over fines for last year’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“BP’s profits continue to soar, proving once again that the oil giant can afford to pay the highest penalties for their oil spill in the Gulf,’’ said Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. “It is time to finalize the fines, and for BP to pay, so that families living and working in the Gulf can finally move forward.’’

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In December, the U.S. Justice Department sued BP in a New Orleans federal court to collect billions of dollars in fines under the Clean Water Act.

In its filing, the government claimed that 4.1 billion barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf over 87 days because of the spill, which could generate fines as much as $17.6 billion — or as much $4,300 a barrel, if the government can prove negligence.

The company says that the U.S. government is inflating how much oil was spilled over a three month period that began April 20, 2010, when a fire erupted on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The accident led to a catastrophic blowout that caused millions of raw crude to gush from the ruptured underwater well.

On its website, the company says it has “acted to take responsibility for the clean-up, to respond swiftly to compensate people affected by the impact of the accident, and to look after the health, safety and welfare of the large number of residents and people who helped respond to the spill. As of 31 December 2010, we had spent $17.7 billion for our response activities.’’

Before the GOP takeover of the House, Markey, a Democrat, became a leading a critic of the giant multinational oil company. Markey chaired two energy panels that investigated the spill and attempted to hold BP officials accountable.

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“In these challenging financial times, U.S. tax dollars should not be spent padding the coffers of BP and other big oil companies, but should be used to pay down the deficit, preserve Medicare and Social Security, and invest in clean energy jobs,’’ Markey said.

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