DOJ Opens Criminal Probe Into Oil Spill
Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the Department of Justice is opening both civil and criminal probes into the Gulf Oil Spill.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in New Orleans that he planned to “prosecute to the fullest extent of the law” any person or entity that the Justice Department determines has broken the law in connection with the oil spill.
His announcement caused energy stocks to tumble. And
"BP lost 15 percent of its market value during the day’s trading. "
What crimes are being investigated? [More...]
Administration officials said they were reviewing violations of the Clean Water Act, which carries criminal and civil penalties and fines; the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can be used to hold parties responsible for cleanup costs; the Migratory Bird Tree Act and the Endangered Species Act, which provide penalties for injury and death of wildlife.
Obama made his own threats earlier today:
President Barack Obama also raised the issue of legal action. "If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region," Mr. Obama said during a White House appearance.
Some see possible fraud charges, although it could be hard to prove.
But to bring a successful criminal case, the government must generally show the defendant knowingly flouted the law or that the pollution was the result of negligence.
"There's a big difference between financial accountability and criminal prosecution, said Paul McNulty, a former U.S. deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush and now at the law firm Baker & McKenzie LLP.
I'd rather see government resources spent on fixing the problem and implementing safeguards to prevent another occurrence. Since the Government doesn't have the ability and expertise to remedy the crisis on its own, it doesn't seem like a good time to be alienating those who might be able to provide a solution by threatening prosecution. Can't that wait?
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