The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it is suing oil giant BP and eight other companies involved in the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. Announcement of the civil suit was made at the Justice Department in Washington by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder told a news conference that BP and the other companies named in the suit will be held accountable for the explosion back in April that killed 11 workers and led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Holder said the suit alleges that the companies violated U.S. environmental laws including the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act.
"A failure to take the necessary precautions to secure the Macondo Well prior to the April 20th explosion," said Holder. "Failure to utilize the safest drilling technology to monitor the well's condition. Now, we intend to prove that these violations caused or contributed to the massive oil spill and that the defendants are therefore responsible under the Oil Pollution Act for government removal costs, economic losses as well as environmental damages."
The lawsuit is being pursued in addition to a criminal investigation being led by the Justice Department. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Damages from the lawsuit could be substantial if BP and the other defendants are found liable. The suit says the amount of damages and the extent of injuries incurred by the Deepwater Horizon Spill are not yet known. Legal experts say that if the companies are held liable in the suit, however, the amount of damages could reach well into the billions of dollars.
Lisa Jackson is administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which works with the Justice Department to enforce environmental laws. She said, "This is about getting a fair deal for the region that suffered enormous consequences from this disaster. And it is also about securing the future of the Gulf Coast. Ensuring accountability strengthens our ongoing efforts to help Gulf Coast communities get their lives and livelihoods back on track."
BP and other companies already face numerous civil lawsuits filed by victims of the Gulf oil spill, including fishermen, property owners along the coast and various businesses that depend on tourism along the Gulf Coast.