New Orleans—NELC’s mission is to represent the public’s interest in a clean and healthy environment by bringing environmental scofflaws to justice when government regulators do not.

Thus, on May 28, 2010, when millions of gallons of oil continued to gush from BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill site in the Gulf of Mexico and create the largest oil spill in U.S. history, NELC took legal action.

On behalf of Environment America, the Gulf Restoration Network, and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, NELC sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue BP for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging oil into the Gulf, failing to accurately measure the flow, and failing to remove the oil from the waters.

After intensive meetings with environmental groups, lawyers, and government regulators, NELC determined that in this case its services would not be needed. Private attorneys were representing the interests of those directly hurt by the spill; environmental groups were focused on endangered species, damage to natural resources, and the out-of-control oil leasing process; and the federal government was preparing the biggest Clean Water Act enforcement case ever seen.

Thus far, the government has imposed a record $4.5 billion in criminal fines and penalties against BP, $1.4 billion in fines against partner company Transocean, and manslaughter prosecutions are under way. NELC applauds EPA’s efforts thus far, while awaiting a CWA civil penalty against BP that may reach $20 billion to reflect the enormity of the damage caused.