By FARRON COUSINS,desmogblog.com –
A federal judge in Louisiana has dismissed lawsuits against Nalco, Inc., the makers of the oil dispersant Corexit, effectively shielding the company from liabilities that stem from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the resulting oil leak that poisoned the Gulf of Mexico.
Judge Carl Barbier, a member of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled last week that Nalco could not be held liable for any health-related claims against the company for pouring more than 2 million gallons of Corexit on the oil in the Gulf. According to Barbier, to do so would be an “obstacle to federal law.” Nalco was facing suits from cleanup workers who have developedmysterious respiratory illnesses after exposure to Corexit.
Barbier’s decision comes as no surprise to those of us who have been following the BP oil disaster since the beginning. Barbier came under heavy criticism from the moment he was selected to hear the lawsuits stemming from the oil geyser, as it was revealed that Barbier actually owned corporate bonds with both Transocean and Halliburton, two parties involved in the disaster.
Barbier dismissed these criticisms by claiming that his investments in no way impeded his ability to rule on the lawsuits. Of the 15 justices currently sitting on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, all but four were forced to recuse themselves from hearing the oil spill lawsuits because they owned stock in oil companies. Barbier, although he holds investments, did not recuse himself, leaving only 3 judges on the panel without any ties to the oil industry.
What Barbier has done with his decision is to put the interests of his friends in the oil industry over the health problems of residents and volunteers along the Gulf Coast. There is ample evidence that proves that Corexit is not only almost completely ineffective at cleaning up oil spills, but that it is highly toxic.