Environmental Law

DOJ Quietly Overhauls BP Oil Spill Probe

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As the anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico approaches, Justice Department officials have only recently created a special task force to oversee a probe examining who may be criminally responsible.

NPR reports the DOJ “quietly overhauled their approach” earlier this month and put a veteran mob prosecutor in charge of its New Orleans-based task force.

Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole told NPR that he launched the task force to streamline efforts to determine if any laws were broken leading up to the April oil rig explosion that killed 11 and led to the months-long spill.

“I think the coordination and bringing it all into one single task force is going to speed up the resolution to this case rather than slow it down,” Cole said.

Leading the special task force is John Buretta, a federal prosecutor from Brooklyn, N.Y., who is experienced prosecuting mob figures and terrorists. NPR noted that Buretta also has managed cases involving complex fraud.

NPR reported that in addition to environmental violations, there are three likely legal theories being explored by prosecutors:

• Whether BP intentionally played down the size of the spill to investors and regulators.

• Whether executives dumped stock after the spill but before the public knew the extent of the leak.

• Whether there was any document destruction that could trigger obstruction charges.

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