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Animal Welfare Institute Sues BP For Allegedly Burning Endangered Sea Turtles Alive

NEW ORLEANS - The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and other animal protection and conservation organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court June 30 against British Petroleum America Inc., British Petroleum Exploration & Production and British Petroleum PLC for allegedly burning critically endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico in violation of the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws (Animal Welfare Institute, et al. v. BP America, Inc., et al., No. 2:10-cv-01866-CJB-SS, E.D. La.).

As part of BP's efforts to contain the massive oil spill that continues to devastate the Gulf of Mexico, BP is using "controlled burns" whereby oil is corralled by fire resistant booms dragged through the water by shrimp boats and then lit on fire. Endangered sea turtles, including the Kemp's ridley, one of the rarest sea turtles on Earth, are caught in the gathered oil and unable to escape when the oil is set ablaze, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by AWI along with the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Animal Legal Defense Fund after notice was given to BP on June 28 of its alleged violations of federal law and the groups' intent to sue.

The plaintiffs have charged BP with violating the federal Endangered Species Act and the terms of its lease with the U.S. government for the Deepwater Horizon facility, which requires BP to comply with all federal environmental laws. The plaintiffs have asked the court to prevent BP from continuing to engage in burning activities in the Gulf of Mexico which kill or injure endangered sea turtles. The plaintiffs have also filed a temporary restraining order seeking an immediate halt to the burning until, at a minimum, mechanisms are implemented that will prevent any additional sea turtles from being burned alive.

The plaintiff groups are being represented by the Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

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