BP seeks Houston judge and courtroom for oil spill lawsuits

With Texas Governor Rick Perry claiming that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have been “just an act of God” that nobody could have prevented, and with so many of our country’s biggest oil companies and former leaders firmly rooted in the Lone Star state, BP knows it has a friend or two in Texas.

That’s why the oil giant has asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate nearly 100 lawsuits filed against it under U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of the Southern District of Texas in Houston.

Lawsuits have been filed in every Gulf Coast state, representing fishermen and the seafood industry, hotels, restaurants and other travel-related businesses, and property owners – all of whom are directly threatened by the growing oil slick. Oil has already encompassed Louisiana’s Chandeleur Islands and Breton National Wildlife Refuge and has begun washing up on Alabama’s white sandy beaches.

The oil spill arrested the Gulf Coast fishing industry before the fishing season even began and it has caused a spate of cancellations and postponements throughout the Gulf Coast tourist industry. Officials warn that the BP spill could pose an unprecedented degree of environmental and economic damage if it is not stopped soon.

BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling operations are managed at BP Products North America headquarters in Houston. Other defendants named in the potential class-action lawsuits, Transocean, Halliburton, and Cameron International, are also headquartered in Houston.

Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, which BP had been leasing for exploratory drilling at a rate of nearly $500,000 per day. Cameron International provided the blowout prevention equipment, while Halliburton provided the drilling services and was responsible for cementing and sealing the wellhead.

According to Jeffrey Luthi, a spokesman for the U.S. Judicial Panel on MDL, BP asserted that Hughes’ Houston courtroom would be the appropriate forum for the cases. Yet all of the plaintiffs whose livelihoods and businesses could be ruined by the oil spill live and work in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The MDL panel won’t make a decision on the matter until after it has heard arguments at its July session in Boise, Idaho.