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March 7, 2011

Oregon Law students help bring suit against BP

Students work with famed attorney Charlie Tebbutt on Clean Water Act lawsuit

Three University of Oregon School of Law Environmental LL.M. (master of laws) students are working with famed Oregon environmental attorney Charlie Tebbutt to prosecute a Clean Water Act lawsuit against BP and Transocean regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Elisabeth Holmes, Kevin Bonin, and Alex Hood are helping Tebbutt, who represents the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), and his team as they seek approximately $20 billion in civil penalties from BP, based on a claim of $4,300 per barrel spilled — the maximum allowed under the Clean Water Act. The CBD has filed the suit against BP under the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act.

For the students, the suit has been a rigorous introduction to the field of public interest environmental litigation. They are researching legal issues that are likely to arise in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation as it moves through the courts and intend to see the case through to the end. Working with Tebbutt fulfills the students’ degree requirements for completing the LL.M. Practicum, which consists of independent research and writing.

“This is one of the largest, perhaps most complicated, series of civil actions on the planet,” Tebbutt remarked. “The students are assisting to provide research and ideas about the numerous first impression procedural and factual aspects of the case.”

“I’m very glad to be a part of this process,” said Holmes. “It’s been a very intensive education on the challenges of federal environmental litigation.”

Tebbutt said Oregon Law’s extensive connections to the larger public interest and environmental communities make these types of opportunities for students possible.

“Those nationwide law community connections give students opportunities they might not get elsewhere,” he said.

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