Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Holder to Launch Criminal Investigation of BP

This is a positive development:
NEW ORLEANS — BP's stock plummeted and took much of the market down with it Tuesday as the federal government announced criminal and civil investigations into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP engineers, meanwhile, tried to recover from a failed attempt to stop the gusher with an effort that will initially make the leak worse.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who was visiting the Gulf to survey the fragile coastline and meet with state and federal prosecutors, would not say who might be targeted in the probes into the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

"We will closely examine the actions of those involved in the spill. If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be extremely forceful in our response," Holder said in New Orleans.
I'm not particularly optimistic that BP will feel it (corprations this big and powerful hardly ever do), but it's a step in the right direction. Marcy Wheeler had a great catch in Holder's statement:
While it is not news that DOJ is conducting an investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Eric Holder’s speech in New Orleans about the spill reiterated that DOJ is doing so. I’m most interested in the particular emphasis Holder placed on the 11 men who died in the explosion.

There is one thing I will not let be forgotten in this incident: 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.

True, Holder focused primarily on civil liability and named statutes that focus on fines. But he also said that Department attorneys were reviewing “other traditional criminal statutes” with regard to the accident, which might include things like negligent homicide (bmaz described negligent and reckless homicide, as well as other relevant statutes, in this post). (This would be particularly useful, IMO, as an HJC hearing last week made it clear that there were some limits to the support BP can be made to pay the families of those who died.)

Mind you, as always with this Administration, I’m not holding my breath. But given the mounting evidence that BP was using a negligent well design and proceeded with attempts to close the well in spite of signs of looming disaster, I do hope DOJ gives due consideration to the deaths that such corporate negligence may have caused. Treating those 11 deaths with the seriousness it deserves may well be the only thing that might teach BP a lesson here.

That would be huge, and let's hope it's the route he takes. More importantly you'd have to assume this is a sign that the administration will actually take tough stance with BP, rather than the "boot on their neck" bullshit that they've been saying for some time now.


  1. Just a reminder that big oil is almost never held responsible for cleaning up the messes they create.

    The Gulf spill is appalling but not the world's worst oil spill by a long shot...

  2. Truth. Rb and I did a paper on the niger delta mess back in college, that stuff is so depressing. The violence that surrounds it (and the oil companies not so hidden involvement in that violence) really makes it hard to compare to even something as devastating as this.

    And there's even less chance of something being done to stop it because it doesn't get any of the attention that this spill gets (or anything that happens in the US or Europe)