The Justice Department of the United States government has announced that it has slapped BP and several other companies it held responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last summer with a lawsuit seeking “unlimited removal costs and damages” under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
Speaking at a news conference following the announcement Attorney General Eric Holder said “We intend to prove that... violations [of industry regulations] 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.”
Mr. Holder also warned that the Obama administration would not hesitate to take “whatever steps are necessary” to hold accountable those who are responsible for this spill, a remark that led some experts such as law professor David Uhlmann of the University of Michigan to speculate in the New York Times whether a criminal case might follow.
Currently it is only a civil suit that the U.S. government has filed, one that was built on the case that BP and companies related to the oil spill incident ought to be held liable for allowing over millions of gallons of crude oil to flow in the Gulf from the ruptured Macondo well of the Deepwater Horizon rig.
Other companies named as defendants in the suit include Anadarko Exploration and Production, Moex Offshore, Triton Asset Leasing, Transocean Holdings, QBE Underwriting and Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036. Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in April this year, and was only capped in July after an unprecedented effort by BP and the government to halt the oil flow.
One notable absentee from the defendants list, however, was Halliburton, which was said to be the contractor for the cement work on the well. When asked about this Mr. Holder was reported to have explained that the complaint could be amended later and more defendant names could be added to the list. The wording of the lawsuit corroborated this claim.
Touching upon the vast scale of the damage resulting from the spill the lawsuit observed, “While the full scope and impact of this disaster are not yet known, the consequences include lost lives, destroyed livelihoods, and grave harm to natural resources across several States and related waters.”
The specific charges brought by the lawsuit against the operators of the well and the rig related to failure to prevent the blowout of oil and methane gas was not prevented by defendants, and the companies involved had not taken “necessary precautions to keep the Macondo Well under control.”
Other charges that the U.S. government has brought against the defendants include failing to use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor and evaluate the Macondo Well’s conditions, failure to maintain continuous surveillance on the rig floor, and failure to maintain equipment and materials such as the Blow-Out Preventer stack, that were “available and necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, equipment natural resources, and the environment.”