"The government is still keeping crucial information about the extent of the damage a carefully guarded secret--from everyone except BP.
Under the federal code governing the damage assessment protocol, as the responsible party, BP is guaranteed a role in the process, and therefore has access to data that the government isn't required to show the public. This privileged information, of course, gives BP an advantage, since the company now knows what it's up against in court. In fact, BP has already hired a fleet of scientists to conduct its own assessment of the damage, which the company could use to challenge the government's analysis. BP's scientists have signed three-year confidentiality agreements, meaning they can't disclose their data to the public.
Nine prominent scientists and marine researchers from groups and research institutions including the National Wildlife Federation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Florida State University sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and BP CEO Robert Dudley on Tuesday calling for 'full and timely transparency of all scientific information' related to the disaster. If the government released the damage data, local and regional conservation and environmental groups could provide valuable insight, said David Pettit, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council. But there's no formal public input period until the government issues its draft restoration plan, which could take years.
While the government is releasing some data on wildlife deaths, it has not been forthcoming with more specific information, such as the species of birds, reptiles, and mammals that have been found coated in oil or dead."