After spending an afternoon observing what has now been confirmed as the worst oil spill in American history, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will begin both criminal and civil investigations to determine who should be held responsible for the economic and environmental devestation that is now all to apparent.
During the New Orleans press conference, Holder reiterated that “the first and foremost goal of the entire government is stopping the leak, containing and cleaning up the oil, and helping the people in this region get back on their feet and return to their normal lives.”
But he also noted that “we must also ensure that anyone found responsible for this spill is held accountable. That means enforcing the appropriate civil – and if warranted, criminal – authorities to the full extent of the law.”
Despite accusations that both BP and the Obama administration have prevented media from reporting on the full extent of the spill and purposefully failed to release the results of air and water quality tests that would show the true health risks of crude oil and dispersants on workers, Holder assured the American people that his department would work diligently to gather facts and coordinate the government’s legal response.
“We will ensure that every cent of taxpayer money will be repaid and damages to the environment and wildlife will be reimbursed,” Holder declared. “We will make certain that those responsible clean up the mess they have made and restore or replace the natural resources lost or injured in this tragedy. And we will prosecute to the full extent any violations of the law.”
Holder stated that the DOJ would begin by examining possible violations of:
- Clean Water Act, which carries civil penalties fines as well as criminal penalties;
- The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can be used to hold parties liable for cleanup costs and reimbursement for government efforts;
- The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Acts, which provide penalties for injury and death to wildlife and bird species.
According to the Wall Street Journal, legal experts said the government could also use various fraud statutes that would hold individuals or BP as a corporation responsible if anyone is found to have made false statements.
Only time will tell whether these noble legal goals will actually be achieved, though the start of a criminal investigation seems to support the White House’s claim that it is taking aggressive action to sort through the corporate denial and get to the bottom of what really happened to the Deepwater Horizon.
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Find full Care2 Coverage of the Spill here.
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