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VT Law School Expert Calls for Closing Environmental Bankruptcy Loopholes

August 11, 2010

As the clean up of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill continues, Vermont Law School Professor Jackie Gardina is available to comment on the hidden costs of environmental catastrophes.

Gardina, an expert in environmental obligations of bankruptcy, can be reached at 802-831-1272 or jgardina@vermontlaw.edu.

"Corporate polluters have walked away from billions of dollars in clean-up costs and BP is in a position to do the same," she said. "Environmental catastrophes come with enormous price tags and often take decades to resolve. In theory, the responsible parties, like BP and the other corporations involved in the Gulf oil spill, are responsible for paying for all environmental costs. But when corporate polluters file for bankruptcy all bets are off - they can abandon contaminated properties, ignore clean-up obligations, leave innocent victims of corporate negligence or malfeasance with no real remedy and result in taxpayer money being used to repair the damage. It's all perfectly legal and that needs to change.

"A 2005 GAO report found that the EPA had failed to use existing authority to ensure that bankrupt businesses met their cleanup obligations, putting the US taxpayer at significant risk.

"The Bankruptcy Code creates a gaping loophole through the polluter-pay principle that is the foundation of our environmental laws. Congress needs close it by giving certain environmental clean-up costs priority in the bankruptcy system and to make it more difficult for corporate polluters to discharge their environmental obligations. Under current law, the corporations involved in the Gulf oil spill could simply file for bankruptcy and shed their long-term commitment to ensure the Gulf coast and its residents are made whole."

John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
 802-831-1106 , jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

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