Justice Dept. Sues BP, Anadarko, Transocean for Gulf Oil Spill


The U.S government filed a lawsuit against BP (NYSE:BP), Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC), Transocean (NYSE:RIG) and several others Wednesday, alleging that the companies' negligent behavior and poor safety standards eventually led to the April 20th explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and resulting oil spill.

In a suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the U.S. said it seeks unspecified damages from the defendants to recover the clean-up costs and damage to the environment.

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The Obama administration’s suit asks for the court to wave the $75 million cap that the Oil Pollution Act imposes on oil-spill-related offenses, asking that BP and the others be held liable without limit. The government is seeking civil damages against the companies as well.

“While the full scope and impact of this disaster are not yet known, the consequences include lost lives, destroyed livelihoods, and grave harm to natural resources across several States and related waters,” the Justice  Department said in the suit. “The spill necessitated a government response unprecedented in size, duration, and expense.”’

The Justice Department filed the suit under the authority of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act but said it may evoke the Endangered Species Act as well in the future.

According to the suit, BP and the others failed to take the necessary safety precautions and use the best available equipment and technology in operating the Deepwater Horizon leading up to the April 20 blowout.

BP is the center point of the lawsuit, but Transocean, MOEX and Anadarko were also named in the suit. Transocean operated the Deepwater Horizon rig and MOEX and Anadarko were minority owners in the well. Halliburton (NYSE:HAL), which crafted the cement used in the well, was not named in the Justice Department’s suit but could be added if more evidence warranted adding them to the defendant list.

The British insurance company Lloyd’s is also named in the suit but as the underwriter of the insurance policy that BP took out on the well.

BP has already put aside $20 billion in what is eventually to be a $40 billion trust fund to cover the costs related to the oil spill. Both Transocean and Halliburton have claimed they are were not responsible for the April 20 blowout.

BP shares dropped 2.1% on Wednesday to $43.47, Anadarko shares fell 2.4% to $67.30 and Transocean shares were down 1.3% to $71.80. Halliburton shares were also down 2.25% to $40.16.