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Jun-01-2010 16:24printcomments

Eric Holder Speaks Out Over BP Oil Spill

There are a wide range of possible violations under these statutes, and we will closely examine the actions of those involved in this spill.

Holder and Obama
Holder and Obama

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - This morning, I surveyed just one small portion of the damage caused by what is now the largest oil spill in American history. I was briefed by Coast Guard officers involved in the massive response effort, and also surveyed the famed Louisiana Delta, where the early signs of oil intruding into the ecosystem are all too evident.

This afternoon, our team from Washington met with Attorneys General and U.S. Attorneys for the states and districts whose coastlines and citizens have been impacted by this disaster, to discuss how we can work together to respond to this tragic spill.

As you all know, the President on Friday reiterated that the first and foremost goal of the entire government is stopping the leak, containing and cleaning up the oil, and helping the people in this region get back on their feet and return to their normal lives.

But as we have said all along, we must also ensure that anyone found responsible for this spill is held accountable. That means enforcing the appropriate civil – and if warranted, criminal – authorities to the full extent of the law.

What we saw this morning was oil for miles and miles. Oil that we know has already affected plant and animal life along the coast, and has impacted the lives and livelihoods of all too many in this region. This disaster is nothing less than a tragedy.

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.

During the early stages of the response efforts, I sent a team of attorneys, including the head of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Ignacia Moreno, and the head of our Civil Division, Tony West, to New Orleans to lead our efforts to protect not only the people who work and reside near the Gulf, but also the American taxpayers, the environment and the abundant wildlife in the region. They have been working diligently ever since to gather facts and coordinate the government’s legal response.

As we move forward, we will be guided by simple principles: We will ensure that every cent of taxpayer money will be repaid and damages to the environment and wildlife will be reimbursed. We will make certain that those responsible clean up the mess they have made and restore or replace the natural resources lost or injured in this tragedy. And we will prosecute to the full extent any violations of the law.

Among the many statutes Department attorneys are reviewing are:

  • The Clean Water Act, which carries civil penalties and fines as well as criminal penalties;
  • The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can be used to hold parties liable for cleanup costs and reimbursement for government efforts;
  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Acts, which provide penalties for injury and death to wildlife and bird species; and,
  • Other traditional criminal statutes.

There are a wide range of possible violations under these statutes, and we will closely examine the actions of those involved in this spill. If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response. We have already instructed all relevant parties to preserve any documents that may shed light on the facts surrounding this disaster. As our review expands in the days ahead, we will be meticulous, we will be comprehensive, and we will be aggressive. We will not rest until justice is done.

While the federal government continues to focus on stopping the leak and responding to the environmental disaster, the Department of Justice will ensure the American people do not foot the bill for this disaster and that our laws are enforced to the full extent. That is our responsibility, and we will do nothing less.

I’d now be happy to take any questions.

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Ersun Warncke June 1, 2010 9:23 pm (Pacific time)

The hypocrisy and duplicity of the corporate propagandists and their anti-Obama choir on this issue is really absurdly comical. Aren't these the "anti-regulation" people? Aren't these the "drill baby drill" people? Do any of them remember the Bush administration pushing through tons of new oil leases during the engineered "oil crisis" that occurred at the end of the Bush administration (stealing billions from ordinary Americans in the process). How exactly do you blame the government for the actions of private corporations? Because they were too lax in their regulation? Well, by all means, I agree that regulation of companies like BP is far too lax. But how many of these two-faced monkeys support those measures? Only in the fantastic world of corporate media does the government get blamed for lax regulation when corporations cause catastrophes that could have been prevented by the very regulations that they offered bribes of cash, sex, and drugs (and probably a whole lot of blackmail to go with that) in order to keep from being enacted and enforced.

john June 1, 2010 6:58 pm (Pacific time)

I have a hard time imagining that sending attorneys to an oil spill is any better that putting teats on a boarhog. Mr Holder, more walk, less talk please.

Osotan; June 1, 2010 6:59 pm (Pacific time)

my question is why the hell licenses to drill offshore were ever granted by our distinguished leadership in the white house? My second question; is there any way the spill can be directed into the Patomic river?,to the presidents toilet and shaower facilities or even the senators residences so they can experience first hand the outcome of their policies? Thank you very much.

Anonymous June 1, 2010 6:01 pm (Pacific time)

I wonder if he'll ever get around to dealing with voter intimidation? Or reading SB1070? Or asking for a special prosecutor because of a conflict of interest he has with his boss regarding possible criminality with Joe Sestak?

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