BP oil spill update: White House launches criminal investigation
Mr Obama reconfirmed his government's commitment to the clean-up
Wednesday, 02, Jun 2010 05:35
By Sarah Garrod.
The US government has launched criminal and civil investigations into the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the country's attorney general has said.
Eric Holder said yesterday that the White House would "not rest until justice is done" in an announcement just hours after president Barack Obama threatened legal action against the oil giant.
The news saw BP shares dip again on Wednesday morning, following huge falls on Tuesday. Mr Holder did not say which companies would be targeted in the investigations and did not say what charges were being brought.
The attorney general insisted that while stopping the leak, containing and cleaning up the oil, and helping people in the region who have suffered financial loss remains the government's top priority, saying "we must also ensure that anyone found responsible for this spill is held accountable. That means enforcing the appropriate civil - and if warranted, criminal - authorities to the full extent of the law".
The news came after another failed attempt by BP yesterday to halt the gushing oil coming from a breached well on the seabed. It is hoped its latest attempt - to cap the fractured pipe using undersea robots - will have better success.
The BP oil spill saga has been ongoing since April 20th, when an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers. The rig subsequently sank, and since then 20 million gallons of oil have pumped into the Gulf, devastating the Louisiana coastline and killing wildlife. The impact on local business - which relies heavily on fishing and tourism - has also been strongly felt.
Mr Holder told reporters yesterday: "We will closely examine the actions of those involved in the spill.
"If we find evidence of illegal behaviour, we will be extremely forceful in our response.
"We will ensure that every cent, every cent of taxpayer money, will be repaid and that damage to the environment and wildlife will be reimbursed," he added.
The spill has been dubbed one of the worst environmental disasters in history, and its effects are likely to be felt for some time.
There are also now fresh concerns the impact of the spill could be exacerbated by the hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said that an "active to extremely active" hurricane season is expected for the Atlantic Basin this year.
"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," said Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
"The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared."
Speaking at the White House yesterday Mr Obama also reconfirmed his government's commitment to the clean-up. Following a meeting with former Senator Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Bill Reilly - who will serve as co-chairs of a bipartisan BP oil spill commission - the president said: "We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again.
"If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change."
Mr Obama added: "As a result of this disaster, lives have been lost. Businesses have been decimated. Communities that had already known great hardship now face the spectre of sudden and painful economic dislocations.
"We owe all those who've been harmed, as well as future generations, a full and vigorous accounting of the events that led to what has now become the worst oil spill in US history."