Baker Botts helps UK Government back BP in US federal contracting ban challenge

A heavyweight roster of firms along with the British Government swung into action in a Texas courtroom last week to help BP challenge a US ban on it bidding for federal government contracts.

The lawsuit, heard in a Texas federal court, was filed by BP this August to challenge an action by made on 28 November last year by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which suspended the energy company from federal contracting.

BP’s is arguing that the sanctions levelled against it by the EPA in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster had been too severe.

In particular, 21 BP entities worldwide, the majority of which were not implicated in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, have been excluded from bidding for new federal procurement contracts.

The Government’s amicus brief warned that the scope of the exclusion, which did not only focus on the site of the disaster but other BP entities, was too broad and could “erode global public trust” in the federal contracting business and undermine the US’ culture of responsibility.

It also warned of potential job and pensions losses as a result of the federal contracting ban.

One lawyer commented: “Business needs a clear understanding of what the law provides, it needs clarity. There is also a sense that what the EPA did feels punitive in nature. And also that BP has done a lot to respond to the disaster and make amends and none of that was taken into consideration. The British Government is asking what does that mean for other companies in the future?”

Baker Botts represented the UK Government while a multi-firm team featuring Kirkland & Ellis, Arnold & Porter and Texas firm Andrews Kurth represented BP.