BP Can’t Make Oil Spill Subcontractors Sign Away Rights

May 3, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

A fisherman walks on the dock past idle fishing boats on May 3, in Mississippi, as the fleet are confined to port since the shutdown of all fishing on the Gulf Coast due to the oil spill from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster (Stan Honda/Getty Images)
A fisherman walks on the dock past idle fishing boats on May 3, in Mississippi, as the fleet are confined to port since the shutdown of all fishing on the Gulf Coast due to the oil spill from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster (Stan Honda/Getty Images)
A federal district judge in Louisiana ruled Sunday to nullify parts of an agreement oil rig owner BP wanted fisherman helping clean up the Deepwater Hoizon oil spill to sign. Commercial fisherman in the Gulf region, their livelihood in danger, are subcontracting with BP to help clean up the oil spill that has damaged commercially fished marine populations of fish, shrimp, and oysters.

Hundreds of fisherman are working to protect the habitat of the fish they depend on for their livelihood, said Val Exnicios, an attorney for the Commercial Fisherman’s Association. BP “put [the fisherman] out of business, the least they can do is employ them … for the short term,” said Exnicios, speaking by phone with the Epoch Times.

In order to subcontract with BP and help clean up oil from the exploded Deepwater Hoizon offshore oil rig, BP was requiring the subcontracting commercial fisherman to sign an agreement that: prohibited them from speaking to anyone about what they saw during spill cleanup; released BP from any liability for accidents during cleanup; and required any legal claims to be filed within 30 days of incidents, rather than the one years' time allowed by Louisiana state law.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana opened Sunday to receive a petition brought by the Commercial Fisherman’s Association seeking emergency relief and asking the court to strike the language from the agreement. On Sunday federal Judge Ginger Berrigan agreed the agreement was too broadly worded and the above mentioned three clauses of the Master Charter Agreement, about speech, liability, and the statute of limitations on legal claims were declared null and void and eliminated from the agreement.

Exnicios said the oil spill came at “absolutely the worst possible time.” This is the beginning of the season for commercial fisherman and right about now shrimp spawn need to make it to the estuaries, he said. The estuaries serve as nurseries for them to grow in. Many won’t make it said Exnicios, killed by the oil before the tides carry them into the estuaries—thus endangering future populations. Oysters too, he said, that can’t get away from the oil will be impacted. According to Exnicios the oyster population recovered to normal levels only last year, having been heavily damaged by hurricane Katrina in 2005.