Gulf oil spill: Criminal investigation announced

The US administration is launching an investigation into bringing possible criminal charges over the Gulf oil spill.

From attorney general Eric Holder’s press statement:

During the early stages of the response efforts, I sent a team of attorneys including the head of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Ignacia Moreno, and the head of our Civil Division, Tony West, to New Orleans to lead our efforts to protect not only the people who work and reside near the Gulf, but also the American taxpayers, the environment and the abundant wildlife in the region. They have been working diligently ever since to gather facts and coordinate the government’s legal response.

As we move forward, we will be guided by simple principles: We will ensure that every cent of taxpayer money will be repaid and damages to the environment and wildlife will be reimbursed. We will make certain that those responsible clean up the mess they have made and restore or replace the natural resources lost or injured in this tragedy. And we will prosecute to the full extent any violations of the law.

Among the many statutes Department attorneys are reviewing are:

  • The Clean Water Act, which carries civil penalties and fines as well as criminal penalties;
  • The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can be used to hold parties liable for cleanup costs and reimbursement for government efforts;
  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Acts, which provide penalties for injury and death to wildlife and bird species; and,
  • Other traditional criminal statutes.

There are a wide range of possible violations under these statutes, and we will closely examine the actions of those involved in this spill. If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response. We have already instructed all relevant parties to preserve any documents that may shed light on the facts surrounding this disaster.

Related links:

US looks at criminal probe over spill - FT

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