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article imageUS Justice Department sues BP for Gulf oil spill

By Kim I. Hartman     Dec 15, 2010 in Environment
Washington - The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Wednesday against BP Exploration and Production Inc. and several other companies, in their first major legal action resulting from the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
The government's civil claims, filed in a New Orleans federal court, seek penalties and damages under the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act.
The Obama administration's lawsuit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources, reports NPR.
An explosion that killed 11 workers and injured at least 17 at BP's Macondo well last April led to oil spewing from the company's undersea well — more than 200 million gallons in all, by the government's estimate. BP disputes the figure of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
"We intend to prove that these violations, of the Oil Pollution Act and Clean Water Act, caused or contributed to the massive oil spill," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference, "and that the defendants are therefore responsible under the Oil Pollution Act for government removal costs, economic losses as well as environmental damages."
The amount of damages and the extent of injuries sustained by the United States as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Spill are not yet fully known, the lawsuit states. A total assessment of damages to natural resources could take years.
Judge Carl J. Barbier, who is running the centralized litigation from New Orleans, issued an order in October that all “master complaints” should be filed by Dec. 15. Stephen J. Herman, a leader of the group of plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case, said that he had not heard that the government was preparing to join the litigation, but added, “It was inevitable that they were going to file suit,” according to the NY Times.
The Wall Street Journal reports other defendents include Anadarko Exploration & Production LP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; Transocean Holdings LLC and Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and BP's insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd's Syndicate 1036.
Halliburton Co., which designed and pumped the cement used in the well, wasn't named in the lawsuit.
Transocean disputed the allegations, insisting it should not be held liable for the actions of others. "No drilling contractor has ever been held liable for discharges from a well under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990," the company said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. "The responsibility for hydrocarbons discharged from a well lies solely with its owner and operator."
The lawsuit will be consolidated in the multidistrict litigation that is pending before a New Orleans federal judge. The department has been conducting criminal and civil investigations into the oil-spill disaster since it occurred.
Additional defendants and charges could be added at a later date, a Justice Department official said.
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