US sues BP over Gulf oil spill

16 December 2010 02:21  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Wednesday that could result in BP and eight other companies paying billions of dollars in civil damages as a result of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit does not specify damage amounts, but the complaint “alleges that the defendants named in the lawsuit were in violation of the [US Clean Water] Act throughout the months that oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico”, the Justice Department said.  

The 20 April explosion on the Deepwater Explorer killed 11 workers and resulted in a spill estimated at 4.9m barrels, making it the largest in US history. Violations of the US Clean Water Act can result in fines of $1,100 (€825) for each barrel spilled.

Defendants in the lawsuit included BP Exploration and Production, Anadarko Exploration & Production, Anadarko Petroleum, Transocean Deepwater and others.

The Justice Department alleged the companies also violated federal safety and operational regulations, including failure to take necessary precautions to secure the well prior to the explosion; failure to use the safest drilling technology to monitor the well; failure to maintain continuous surveillance of the well and failure to use and maintain equipment and materials to ensure the safety of the well personnel and the environment.

“We intend to prove that these violations 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,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

BP said the filing of the lawsuit was “solely a statement of the government’s allegations and does not in any manner constitute any finding of liability or any judicial finding that the allegations have merit”.

BP noted that it had already set aside $20bn to pay all legitimate claims.

($1 = €0.75)

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By: Brian Ford
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