Criminal Justice

Federal Criminal and Civil Probes into Gulf Oil Spill Are Under Way, Holder Says

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this afternoon that federal authorities have opened criminal and civil investigations into last month’s explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and has led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Holder declined to identify possible targets of the investigations, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. “I don’t want to cast aspersions unnecessarily,” he said.

In prepared remarks at a news conference this afternoon in New Orleans, Holder said that lawyers are looking for violations of the Clean Water Act, which could carry civil and criminal penalties; the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can hold companies liable for cleanup costs and force them to reimburse the government for its efforts; and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Acts, which penalize companies for injuries and deaths of wildlife and bird species.

But Justice lawyers are also reviewing possible violations of traditional criminal statutes, Holder said.

“There is one thing I will not let be forgotten in this incident: In addition to the extensive costs being borne by our environment and by communities along the Gulf Coast, the initial explosion and fire also took the lives of 11 rig workers,” Holder said. “Eleven innocent lives lost. As we examine the causes of the explosion and subsequent spill, I want to assure the American people that we will not forget the price those workers paid.”

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