NPR logo AG Eric Holder Confirms BP Spill Criminal, Civil Probes

AG Eric Holder Confirms BP Spill Criminal, Civil Probes

Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the Justice Department has opened criminal and civil probes as a result of the BP oil spill and vowed to hold accountable to the fullest extent of the law those responsible for what is emerging as the nation's worst ecological disaster.

After meeting with Gulf Coast states attorneys general, Holder said in a statement:

As we move forward, we will be guided by simple principles: We will ensure that every cent of taxpayer money will be repaid and damages to the environment and wildlife will be reimbursed. 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.

Among the many statutes Department attorneys are reviewing are:

The Clean Water Act, which carries civil penalties and 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; and,

Other traditional criminal statutes.

There are a wide range of possible violations under these statutes, and we will closely examine the actions of those involved in this spill. If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response. We have already instructed all relevant parties to preserve any documents that may shed light on the facts surrounding this disaster. As our review expands in the days ahead,