A man who supervised the BP cleaning efforts along the Mississippi shores claims he was fired after alerting federal officials that the company was falsifying data to make the shores look cleaner than they were, according to court records.
August Walter Jr. filed a whistleblower lawsuit against BP America in federal court in New Orleans last week. The Louisiana man claims the company refused to pick up oil debris from beaches and islands and then misrepresented data to mislead Coast Guard officials into thinking the cleanup was complete.
BP spokesman Tom Mueller told The New Orleans Times-Picayune that the company did not believe Walter’s complaint had merit:
The company promised to “investigate the allegations contained in his complaint, consistent with our personnel policies and code of conduct. We believe we have demonstrated good faith in meeting our obligations in the Gulf and are committed to treating our employees fairly.”
Walter worked as a state planning lead for BP’s cleanup operations until he was fired on Dec. 9, 2011. While working for BP, Walter claims BP was taking shortcuts and not following the environmental standards required.
“BP refused to follow the plan by picking and choosing what oil to pick up resulted in leaving oil behind,” according to court documents.
Walter said the company was leaving smaller tar balls along Mississippi beaches and islands. In the lawsuit, he claims he was reprimanded by BP supervisors when he tried to report the correct status of the beaches.
The lawsuit also alleges Carla Fontenot, vice president of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, said Walter’s support was necessary because “it would have an upward impact on BP stock prices.”
BP Operations Section Chief Mike Harrison demanded that Walter misrepresent data, according to court documents. When Walter refused, Harrison changed the data himself.
Lt. William D. Spoon told The Times-Picuyane that the Coast Guard hasn’t opened a formal investigation into Walter’s allegations but is concerned about them.
Here’s the case: