Coast Guard slams BP for suggesting oil spill cleanup is complete

"We are a long, long way from ... resuming business as usual"

Published April 17, 2014 2:07PM (EDT)

Just days before the four-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP announced that it's ending the "active cleanup" of the Louisiana shoreline.

BP appears to be stopping just short of popping champagne in celebration of reaching this "milestone," which John Mingé, chairman and president of BP America, called "the result of the extraordinary efforts of thousands of people from BP, local communities, government agencies, and academic institutions working together."

"The large-scale cleanup effort, combined with early restoration projects and natural recovery processes, is helping the Gulf return to its baseline condition," the company's press release goes on to say, "which is the condition it would be in if the accident had not occurred."

The U.S. Coast Guard, on the other hand, has a slightly different read on the announcement. "Let me be absolutely clear:  This response is not over -- not by a long shot," Capt. Thomas Sparks, the federal on-scene coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon Response, said in a statement. The Coast Guard clarified that the cleanup is now entering a middle phase, in which crews remain on the Gulf Coast to respond to new reports of oil washing ashore "The transition to the Middle Response process does not end clean-up operations," Sparks said, "and we continue to hold the responsible party accountable for Deepwater Horizon cleanup costs.”

Speaking with the Times-Picayune, Sparks continued to slam BP's premature bout of self-congratulatory publicity:

“I was really disappointed and I was shocked when I read some of the stuff in the press yesterday evening,” said Sparks, who serves as Federal On-Scene Commander for the spill, at the beginning of an appearance scheduled to brief the state’s coastal authority on the status of the cleanup.

“I had significant problems with some of the facts, a lot of the language, but most of all the overall tone and theme of the responsible party press release,” Sparks said. “I found it to be very misleading.”

BP does not speak for the Coast Guard, he said, “and we are a long, long way from the response being complete, going back to operations as normal, or resuming business as usual.”

By Lindsay Abrams

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Bp Coast Guard Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast Gulf Oil Spill Louisiana