Criminal charges likely in Gulf oil spill -

Criminal charges likely in Gulf oil spill

“Just a matter of time,” legal experts say


Federal investigators are likely to file criminal charges against at least one of the companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico spill, environmental law experts say, a fact that raises the prospects of significantly higher penalties than a current $75 million cap on civil liability. Though the government investigation is in its early stages, it’s “just a matter of time until the Justice Department steps in—if it hasn’t already—to initiate a criminal inquiry and take punitive action, Washington-based website McClatchyDC reports. David M. Uhlmann, who headed the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section during the Clinton and Bush administrations believes criminal charges will be brought. “There is no question there’ll be an enforcement action,” he says. That would have broad legal implications for BP and the two other companies involved. The White House is asking Congress to lift the current $75 million cap on liability under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, but there’s no cap on criminal penalties. In fact, prosecutors in such cases can seek twice the cost of environmental and economic damages resulting from the spill.


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