GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) – A South Carolina law firm filed suits Monday against BP and three other companies for what has been described as the largest environmental catastrophe in recent history.
The Bell Legal Group filed suit Monday against British Petroleum (BP), Halliburton, Transocean and Cameron International in U.S. District court in Charleston, alleging damages from the April 20 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
This makes the firm the first one from South Carolina to go up against the petroleum giant filing three separate suits on behalf of plaintiffs in six South Carolina coastal counties. Those counties include Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, Jasper, Colleton and Beaufort.
The suits on behalf of South Carolina hoteliers, restaurateurs, property owners, real estate companies and other businesses and individuals, claim that the defendants engaged in reckless activities by failing to maintain and operate its offshore drilling facility, and failed to take reasonable measures to contain the oil spill, a result of an April 20th explosion.
It further states that the oil slick has and will continue to cause detrimental effects and damages upon the entire South Carolina marine environments, coastal environments, estuarine areas and properties used by individuals for various revenue producing business and tourism related activities.
"It doesn't take an expert to figure out that millions of gallons of oil are going to get into the Gulf Stream and will head this way," senior partner of Bell Legal Group Ed Bell said. "This disaster has already begun to threaten our coast's most vital industry, tourism. Some vacationers have started canceling their summer plans due to the uncertainty of the movement of the spill and Internet blogs are loaded with questions about the safety of South Carolina beaches. For this, the plaintiffs need an answer. We can't afford to stand around and play the wait –and-see game while a catastrophe of this magnitude devastates our shores."
The lawsuit also asserts that defendants intentionally and recklessly chose not to install the appropriate safety measures that would have prevented or minimized the oil spilled, and that they made false claims to regulatory agencies in order to obtain permits and licenses.
The suit alleges that the spill has already begun to have a negative impact on coastal property values, and the stigma associated with the spill will cause tourism to suffer resulting in a loss of revenue to businesses statewide.
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientists report that if the oil moves into the Gulf Stream's loop current, then it's likely to reach Florida's Atlantic coast, and move north as far as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina before heading offshore. Scientific computer models show the 2,500 mile-wide spill is expected to move up the east coast and reach the South Carolina shores as early as July.
"The United States Coast Guard reported on May 19, 2010, that a measurable amount of oil had entered the Gulf of Mexico's loop current, thereby threatening South Carolina's beaches, fishing habitats and recreational areas, thus affecting plaintiffs' property and business interests," according to the suit.