The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed suit [complaint text; press release] Wednesday against units of British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] and several other companies over the April Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], which resulted in an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website], seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and asks the court to declare eight of the defendants liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act [materials] for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. The defendants include BP Exploration and Production Inc.; Anadarko Exploration & Production LP and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (Anadarko Defendants); MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Transocean Deepwater Inc. (Transocean Defendants); and BP's insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd's Syndicate 1036. Announcing the lawsuit, US Attorney General Eric Holder said:
We intend to prove that these defendants are responsible for government removal costs, economic losses, and environmental damages without limitation. Even though the spill has been contained, the Department's focus on investigating this disaster and preventing future devastation has not wavered. Both our civil and criminal investigations continue, and our work to ensure that the American taxpayers are not forced to bear the costs of restoring the gulf area and its economy is moving forward.No dollar amount has been placed on the suit, as damages could take years to calculate, and a DOJ spokesperson said that additional defendants and claims [WSJ report] could be added later.
The government's lawsuit is one of hundreds filed against BP and other companies in connection with the oil spill. In August, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation [official website] selected [order, PDF] Judge Carl Barbier [FJC profile] to hear [JURIST report] more than 300 such lawsuits. Also that month, BP and the DOJ announced the completion of negotiations over the implementation of a $20 billion fund [JURIST reports] to aid victims of the oil spill. In July, a class-action lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] was filed against BP in a Louisiana state court alleging that its negligent actions led to the spill and that BP was further negligent in its oversight of the cleanup effort, resulting in volunteers falling ill due to inadequate protective equipment. In June, two lawsuits were filed against BP [JURIST report] alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) [18 USC § 1961 et seq.] statute. The lawsuits allege that BP purposefully defrauded the American public in order to increase company profits.