Government sues to recover costs from Macondo well accident, spill

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 16 -- The US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency jointly sued to recover damages from the Apr. 20 Macondo well accident, which claimed 11 lives, and subsequent crude oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

DOJ and EPA filed a civil action in US District Court in New Orleans naming nine defendants, including the well’s operator, BP Exploration & Production Inc.; partner Anadarko Exploration & Production LP; offshore drilling contractor Transocean Holdings LLC; and insurers QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036.

The complaint alleges violations of federal safety and operational regulations, including failures to take necessary precautions to secure the well before the blowout and explosion, use the safest drilling technology to monitor the well’s condition, maintain continuous surveillance of the well, and use and maintain equipment and materials necessary to protect personnel, property, natural resources, and the environment, US Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said.

“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,” he told reporters.

Holder said the federal government also is seeking fines under the Clean Water Act, which prohibits unauthorized discharges of oil and similar substances into US waters. “We allege that the defendants named in this lawsuit were in violation of the act throughout the months that oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. “We intend to hold them fully accountable for their violations.”

He said DOJ launched both civil and criminal probes into the accident and spill as initial response efforts were under way, and that lawyers and investigations from the department closely coordinated their efforts with local US attorneys’ offices and states’ attorneys general.

“While today’s civil action marks a critical step forward, it is not a final step,” Holder declared. “Both our criminal and civil investigations are continuing. Our work to ensure that the American taxpayers are not forced to bear the costs of restoring the gulf area—and its economy—goes on. As I have said from the beginning, as our investigations continue, we will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those responsible for this spill.”

DOJ worked with EPA, the US Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement it its investigations for the civil suit, he noted.

In a response, BP said that the lawsuit “is 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,” adding, “BP will answer the government’s allegations in a timely manner and will continue to cooperate with all government investigations and inquiries.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

HSC remains closed, fuel cleanup continues after barge collision

03/24/2014 The Houston Ship Channel (HSC) remained closed to unauthorized vessels Mar. 24 as the result of a temporary emergency safety zone being established...

Judge bars Anadarko e-mails as evidence in Macondo blowout hearing

03/21/2014 A federal district judge in New Orleans refused to accept e-mails between Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and BP PLC as evidence in a hearing to determine...

BOEM extends proposed higher offshore liability limit comment period

03/20/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management added 30 days to the public comment period for its proposed higher liability limit for offshore oil and ga...

Begich objects to House Democrats’ NPR-A comment extension request

03/18/2014 US Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alas.) let three US House Democrats know he did not approve of their request for the US Bureau of Land Management to add 30 ...

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected