The Gulf Oil Spill - Criminal and Civil Investigations
Criminal and Civil Investigations
There are currently two separate legal investigations being conducted by the government. One is by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the other is a joint investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and the new Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE).
On June 1, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that DOJ would begin civil and criminal investigations related to the BP spill under the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other criminal statutes. Targets of the investigation will include BP and other responsible parties identified by DOJ. On September 13, 2010 DOJ gave notice to the U.S. District Court of New Orleans that based on its investigations to date it intends to intervene in oil spill related cases currently pending before the court.
The Coast Guard and BOEMRE have held an in-depth board of investigation into the circumstances surrounding explosion, fire, pollution, and sinking the Deepwater Horizon rig. If the inquiries reveal criminal conduct, the Coast Guard and BOEMRE have stated that they will refer the matter to the Department of Justice for prosecution. The joint panel first heard 10 days of testimony in Kenner, Louisiana, in May and July 2010 from employees of BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and other expert witnesses. Recently, the panel heard an additional 5 days of testimony in Houston in August. To date, the panel has not released any findings.
In the meantime, BP conducted an in-house investigation into the cause of the spill. The report of that investigation was released by BP on September 8, 2010 and generally concluded that the spill was the result of a series of mistakes by multiple parties and that it would appear unlikely that BP’s well design contributed to the incident. Both Transocean and Halliburton have criticized BP’s report.