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Holder Announces Criminal Investigation into Gulf of Mexico Oil Leak

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on June 1 that the Justice Department was in the process of investigating the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill for evidence of criminal liability by those responsible.

Listing the 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, he said “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, we will be meticulous, we will be comprehensive, and we will be aggressive. We will not rest until justice is done.

“While the federal government continues to focus on stopping the leak and responding to the environmental disaster, the Department of Justice will ensure the American people do not foot the bill for this disaster and that our laws are enforced to the full extent. That is our responsibility, and we will do nothing less,” said Holder at a press conference in New Orleans.

He also remembered the workers who died in the explosion: “There is one thing I will not let be forgotten in this incident,” he said. “In addition to the extensive costs being borne by our environment and by communities along the Gulf Coast, the initial explosion and fire also took the lives of 11 rig workers. Eleven innocent lives lost. As we examine the causes of the explosion and subsequent spill, I want to assure the American people that we will not forget the price those workers paid.”

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