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BP, 8 others sued by U.S. for Gulf oil spill

The Justice Department in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday sued BP Exploration and Production Inc. and eight other companies in the Gulf oil spill disaster in an effort to recover billions of dollars from the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

The Justice Department in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday sued BP Exploration and Production Inc. and eight other companies in the Gulf oil spill disaster in an effort to recover billions of dollars from the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

The Obama administration's lawsuit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

An explosion that killed 11 workers at BP's Macondo well last April led to oil spewing from the company's undersea well — more than 200 million gallons in all by the government's estimate. BP disputes the figure.

The department filed the suit in federal court in New Orleans. The other defendants in the case are Anadarko Exploration & Production and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007; Triton Asset Leasing; Transocean Holdings and Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and BP's insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd's Syndicate 1036.

Anadarko and MOEX are minority owners of the well that blew out. Transocean owned the rig that BP was leasing. QBE/Lloyd's can be held liable only up to the amount of insurance policy coverage under the Oil Pollution Act and is not being sued under the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit alleges that safety and operating regulations were violated in the period leading up to April 20. It says that the defendants failed to keep the Macondo well under control during that period and failed to use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor the well's conditions.

They also failed to maintain continuous surveillance and failed to maintain equipment and material that were available and necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources and the environment, the suit charges.

Before Wednesday, potential class-action lawsuits had been filed in the Gulf oil spill by fishing and seafood interests, the tourism industry, restaurants and clubs, property owners losing vacation renters — even vacationers who claim the spill forced them to cancel and lose a deposit. So far, more than 300 suits have been spawned by the spill and consolidated in federal court in New Orleans.

Wednesday's move by the Justice Department follows a decision by President Barack Obama's administration not to open new areas of the eastern Gulf and Atlantic seaboard to drilling.

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