Justice Department Files Suit in Gulf Oil Spill

WASHINGTON -- Nearly eight months after the fire and explosion that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig resulting in an oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico, the Justice Department has filed suit against BP and eight other defendants.

Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement Dec. 15. He was joined by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson; Assistant Attorney General Tony West, who leads the Justice Department’s Civil Division; and Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno, who leads the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"In the wake of the largest oil spill in our nation’s history, Tony and Ignacia helped to lead the Justice Department’s efforts to hold accountable any and all parties found responsible for this disaster," Holder stated.

Justice Department began its investigation shortly after the April 20 disaster, which killed 11 workers 50 miles off the Mississippi River delta. As a result of the criminal and civil probes, the department filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans against nine defendants. Those defendants named in the suit are: BP Exploration and Production Inc., Anadarko Exploration & Production LP, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc., Transocean Deepwater Inc., and QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036.

In the complaint, the United States alleges violations of federal safety and operational regulations, including: failure to take necessary precautions to secure the Macondo Well prior to the explosion; failure to utilize the safest drilling technology to monitor the well’s condition; failure to maintain continuous surveillance of the well; and failure to utilize and maintain equipment and materials that were available and necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, property, natural resources, and the environment.

"We intend to prove that these violations caused or contributed to this massive oil spill, and that the defendants are therefore responsible -- under the Oil Pollution Act -- for government removal costs, economic losses, and environmental damages," Holder said. The Justice Department is also seeking civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

Both the civil and criminal investigations continue, Holder added.

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