Senators question ban on contracts to BP

She also wants a better understanding of the circumstances under which the ban will be lifted.

“Is this a subjective determination by EPA?,” said Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Murkowski said the ban could have repercussions beyond BP. “I’d like to know from EPA, what are the criteria that have been applied?,” Murkowski told reporters in the Capitol. “From what I understand, this is pretty precedential.”

The Obama administration temporarily barred BP from obtaining new contracts as a result the 2010 Gulf of Mexico blowout and rig explosion that killed 11 people and touched off the worst spill in U.S. history.

The company recently reached a large criminal settlement with the Justice Department, but the federal civil case remains ongoing.

“EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company's conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response, as reflected by the filing of a criminal information,” EPA announced Wednesday.

The ban does not affect BP’s current contracts with the federal government.

BP is a major holder of Gulf of Mexico federal oil-and-gas leases and a big presence in Alaska, among other operations.

The company was also the biggest fuel supplier to the military in 2011, according to The Washington Post.

Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said BP can still seek drilling permits on its existing federal leases, according to Bloomberg.

Landrieu called the Obama administration’s decision to temporarily ban new contracts “perplexing,” noting that BP has already received numerous new Interior Department Gulf of Mexico leases since the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

It is unclear how long the ban will last.

“The BP suspension will temporarily prevent the company and the named affiliates from getting new federal government contracts, grants or other covered transactions until the company can provide sufficient evidence to EPA demonstrating that it meets Federal business standards,” said the EPA, which is the lead agency for “suspension and debarment actions” in the federal investigation of the 2010 disaster.

Click here for more of The Hill’s coverage of the ban.