BP Exploration & Production Inc. v. United States
- Case Date: 5/11/2015
- Project Name: Criminalization of Free Enterprise - Business Civil Liberties Program
On June 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-sentence order declining to review an appeals court decision that adopted a confusing test for determining hazardous-discharge liability under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The dispute arose from the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon and the resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In its brief in support of certiorari, WLF argued that the Fifth Circuit’s two internally inconsistent opinions finding BP liable for the spill implicitly confirm that the CWA’s “from-which-oil-is-discharged” provision is ambiguous. Such ambiguity in a harsh penal statute like the CWA, WLF contended, invites application of the venerable rule of lenity, which requires that all ambiguities in civil-penalty statutes be resolved in favor of the defendant. Instead, the panel’s interpretation of the CWA essentially ignored the rule of lenity, leading the court to interpret the CWA expansively rather than narrowly.
More Information and Downloads:
5/11/2015: Download the Brief