Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon in flames, April 21, 2010

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed documents with the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, which indicate that the federal government expects to sue BP for damages related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The final decision about whether or not to continue with the civil complaint has not been made.  However, indicators lean towards the government following through with the suit.  In a step that showed its intention, the Justice Department requested that the courts offer the government a separate track than that of the private lawsuits.  They claim the case may require complex testimony that isn’t needed in the other suits.

BP may not be the only company faced with lawsuits related to the oil disaster.  Any of the other companies that were involved in the operations of the Deepwater Horizen drilling rig are potential targets.

According to attorneys for the Justice Department, it’s possible that damages will be sought based on the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act.  The Clean Water Act, in particular, allows the government to seek hefty penalties.

In meetings with the Obama administration during the height of the crises, BP agreed to set aside $20 billion to cover any claims from the disaster.  So far the company has paid the government $390 million for cleanup costs.  The administration recently sent BP a new bill for $128.5 million.

(image: U.S Coast Guard)