The U.S. has launched criminal and civil investigations into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Wall Street Journal calls it the latest move by the Obama administration to show it is taking aggressive action amid bipartisan criticism of its response to the disaster. “We have what we think is a sufficient basis for us to have begun a criminal investigation,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday after meeting in New Orleans with state attorneys general and federal prosecutors from the region. He noted that 11 people died in the April 20 rig accident that precipitated the spill.
The Justice Department is looking for violations of some of the same environmental laws that Exxon was charged with breaching during its 1989 Valdez spill in Alaska, among other criminal laws. The department is walking a fine line because potential parties under investigation are crucial in the cleanup efforts. Holder said he believes parties that might be probed such as BP have an incentive to redouble their cleanup efforts because they would want to “mitigate whatever damages they have caused.”