Public Citizen and Allies Stage Protest at BP’s Washington, D.C., Headquarters, Conduct Mock Citizen’s Arrest of CEO

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Public Citizen and Allies Stage Protest at BP’s Washington, D.C., Headquarters, Conduct Mock Citizen’s Arrest of CEO

Environmental Advocates, Other Activists Read Charges, Deem Tony Hayward Guilty

WASHINGTON - Public Citizen and seven other prominent public interest groups took
to the streets in the nation’s capital today to express the public’s
outrage at BP’s continued mismanagement of the ever-spreading
environmental disaster it caused in the Gulf of Mexico.

Joined by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Energy Action Coalition,
350.org, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Center for Biological
Diversity and Hip Hop Caucus, Public Citizen articulated the deep
frustration of average Americans by making a mock citizen’s arrest of
BP’s CEO Tony Hayward at the oil giant’s Washington, D.C., office.

At the base of a 13-foot tall inflatable oil barrel, participating
group leaders read from a list of charges against the corporation,
culminating in a finding of criminal negligence and the presentation of a
prison jumpsuit fitted for Hayward, who is ultimately accountable for
the ecological nightmare unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.

 “BP has a long history of violating environmental and worker safety
laws, as well as manipulating markets,” said Robert Weissman, president
of Public Citizen. “BP was ill-prepared for dealing with a deepwater
spill and still cannot contain this gusher. Eleven workers are dead,
coastlines in three states are being devastated, the Gulf is incurring
untold damage and livelihoods are threatened. People are outraged, and
we are here to let BP know it.”

   Added Phil Radford, president of Greenpeace, “The oil destroying
our wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico is a tragic reminder of what we get
when we let corporate polluters write our energy policy. BP must be held
accountable for their crimes, and our government must stop listening to
polluter lobbyists.”

Protesters rallied and waved signs streaming with “crude” in front of
BP’s government affairs office at 1101 New York Ave. NW. The charges
against BP that were read aloud by protesters included disregard for
worker safety, price-gouging consumers and taxpayers, and violations of
environmental laws.

BP has the worst safety and environmental record of any oil company
operating in the U.S. In the past few years, BP has paid more than $730
million in fines and settlements to the federal and state governments,
and in civil lawsuit judgments for environmental crimes, violating
worker safety rules and manipulating energy markets:

• Worker safety – $215 million in total penalties and settlements. 
• Environmental violations – $153 million in penalties and settlements,
plus a guilty plea to an environmental felony and a criminal
misdemeanor. 
• Price-gouging consumers and taxpayers – $363 million in penalties and
settlements.
(Go here for links to related
documents.)

Public Citizen research shows that since the beginning of 2009, BP
has spent more than $19.5 million to hire 49 of the highest-powered D.C.
lobbyists, including 35 former employees of Congress and the executive
branch. (Go here
for more details.)
 The investment appears to have paid off:
Regulators who are supposed to oversee offshore drilling procedures have
been lax – letting BP run its operation however it wanted – and
lawmakers have worked to bolster offshore drilling. 

“Big Oil has been polluting the political process for too long,” said
Ethan Nuss, co-field director of the Energy Action Coalition. “This
fall, young people are organizing to kick dirty energy out of politics
by flooding the midterm elections with support for real clean energy
solutions. Big Oil may be able to outspend us, but we’re the voters and
that’s what counts.”

The protest also was designed to highlight the need for the nation to
move away from inherently dangerous and dirty fuel and instead pursue
clean energy sources. In addition, the groups called for all offshore
drilling to be suspended and liability caps lifted so oil companies feel
the full financial force of responsibility for the damage they cause. 

“We don’t just need to end offshore drilling, we need to enact smart
policies to get ourselves off of oil entirely,” said Erich Pica,
president of Friends of the Earth. “Three out of every five barrels of
oil used in the U.S. go towards transportation. Fortunately, there are
ways we can truly move beyond petroleum, including electrification of
rail, stronger clean-car standards, and walkable, bikeable, public
transit-based development. We have the solutions. We just need the
political courage to stand up to the oil lobby and enact them.”
 
Added the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus,
“All of God’s children must hold BP accountable for the rape and plunder
of our planet. We must hold BP accountable especially here in
Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, in order to stop the corporate
meddling in the political process, which has led to a blatant disregard
for the regulatory process. It is time to strip BP of its corporate
charter and ensure that its assets pay the victims, clean up the Gulf
and try to restore the devastated wildlife.”

The groups also identified the disparity in the fact that charges
have been brought against peaceful climate change activists, while not a
single BP executive has been charged for the devastation caused. Seven
Greenpeace activists are facing felony charges for a peaceful protest in
Louisiana on May 24 to call on the Obama administration to stop the
next oil drilling disaster in the Arctic, and a local Chesapeake Climate
Action Network employee faces potential jail time for hanging a banner
in a Senate office building last fall to urge the Senate to move toward
clean energy.

“In the wake of the Gulf disaster, no one from BP has been arrested
and sent to jail. Meanwhile, I am facing up to three years behind bars
for peacefully hanging a banner urging the Senate to get to work on
securing a desperately needed clean energy economy,” said Ted Glick,
policy director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “It's time we
got our priorities straight and went after those who really are
criminally negligent: Oil companies who have repeatedly demonstrated
disregard for workers’ lives and our wounded environment.”

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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