U.S. Justice Dept. Contemplating Lawsuit Against BP


The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it may sue BP for damages occurring as part of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Justice Department attorneys have informed the U.S. District Court in New Orleans that it may file a civil claim under the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act.

The Oil Pollution Act was passed in 1990 following the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, and the Clean Water Act gives the U.S. government the right to recover civil damages for catastrophic incidents such as the BP oil spill. Under the terms of this law, BP may be held liable for as much as $1,100 (and in some instances as much as $4,300) per barrel of oil spilled.

If filed, the civil suit will attempt to obtain compensation for:

  • The cost of removing oil
  • The cost of increased public services
  • Lost tax revenue
  • Destruction of natural resources

This lawsuit will not impact the many environmental litigation claims that have been filed by private citizens who have suffered damages as a result of the BP oil spill. These lawsuits will proceed as scheduled regardless of whether the Justice Department decides to move forward with its civil suit.

BP has already established a $20 billion oil claims fund to compensated victims of the oil spill, and they have paid the U.S. government $390 million for clean-up efforts.