NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge presiding over litigation spawned by the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill has dismissed all claims against the manufacturer of a chemical dispersant that was used to break up crude gushing from BP’s blown-out well.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled last week that federal laws shield Illinois-based Nalco Co. from liability over the government’s use of Corexit after the 2010 spill.
Nalco didn’t decide whether, when, where, how or in what quantities Corexit would be used in response to the spill, Barbier noted. And the judge said it wouldn’t be proper for him to second guess the federal on-scene coordinator’s decision to use the dispersant.
Lawyers for cleanup workers and coastal residents exposed to the dispersant had argued Nalco isn’t immune from claims it supplied a defective product that wasn’t safe for use in the Gulf.
But the judge said the claims would create an “obstacle to federal law” if he allowed them to proceed.
More than 1.8 million gallons of dispersant were used in responding to the spill. It was last used four days after BP capped the well in June 2010.
A 2010 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that Corexit, when mixed with oil, is no more toxic to aquatic life than oil alone. But congressional investigators have claimed the U.S. Coast Guard defied a federal directive to use the chemical sparingly and routinely approved BP requests to use thousands of gallons of Corexit per day.