Thursday, December 16, 2010

U.S. Sues Companies for Spill Damages

The New York Times
by John Schwartz
Dec. 15, 2010

"The Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday in New Orleans against the oil giant BP and eight other companies over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although the complaint does not specify the damages that the administration is seeking, the fines and penalties under the laws that are cited in the complaint could reach into the tens of billions of dollars.

“We will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those who are responsible for this spill,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said at a news conference.

Mr. Holder said the department was “making progress” on a criminal investigation of the companies involved in the spill.

The Deepwater Horizon rig burned and sank in April, killing 11 workers and leaving the well it was drilling to gush out of control on the gulf floor. Millions of gallons of crude oil spilled before the well was capped in July.

The government is alleging violations of federal regulations concerning the operation and safety of oil rigs, including the failure to take necessary precautions in securing the rig before the explosion and the failure to use the safest drilling technology.

The nine defendants include BP and its partners in owning the well, Anadarko Petroleum and MOEX Offshore 2007, as well as BP’s operating partners, including Transocean, the owner of the rig, and insurers. The 27-page complaint was filed in Federal District Court in New Orleans, where thousands of spill lawsuits have been consolidated.

A leader of the group of plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case, James Roy, welcomed the newest litigant, saying, “We look forward to continued cooperation with the U.S. government in pursuit of justice for all victims of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.”

Halliburton, the contractor for the cement work on the well, was not named as a defendant, but Mr. Holder said the complaint could be amended later. The complaint specifically cites failures of cementing as a factor that contributed to the spill." More>>>>

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