Federal prosecutors are considering whether to file manslaughter charges against BP managers for decisions made before the Gulf of Mexico oil well explosion last year that killed 11 workers and caused the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history, reports Bloomberg News. Investigators are examining statements made by leaders of companies involved in the spill — including former BP CEO Tony Hayward — during congressional hearings last year to determine whether their testimony was at odds with what they knew.
Charging individuals would be significant to environmental-safety cases because it might change behavior, said University of Maryland law Prof. Jane Barrett. “They typically don't prosecute employees of large corporations,” said Barrett, who spent 20 years prosecuting environmental crimes at the federal and state levels. “You've got to prosecute the individuals in order to maximize, and not lose, the deterrent effect.” The Justice Department has opened criminal and civil investigations into the spill, which began after an April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig.