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Oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig

Report: Criminal Charges Likely Over Oil Spill

TPM MUCKRAKER

Justin Elliott | May 13, 2010, 8:59AM

Environmental law experts tell McClatchy it’s likely the Justice Department will ultimately bring criminal charges against the companies involved in the oil spill, potentially under the Clean Water and Air Acts.

McClatchy reports:

While Attorney General Eric Holder has confirmed that Justice Department lawyers are helping the agencies involved in the oil spill inquiry with legal questions, department officials have refused to detail what their role entails.But [Former DOJ environmental crimes section chief David] Uhlmann and other experts said it’s likely prosecutors are already poring over evidence from the spill because under the Clean Water and Air Acts and other federal laws aimed at protecting migratory birds, an accidental oil spill of this magnitude could at least result in misdemeanor negligence charges.

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Oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig

Oil Execs To Face Senate For First Spill Hearings Tuesday

TPM MUCKRAKER

Justin Elliott | May 10, 2010, 6:23PM

On Tuesday officials from some of the major companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will face senators for the first in a long series of congressional hearings.

First up, at 10 a.m. ET, the presidents of BP and Transocean, the rig owner, as well as a top official with cementing services provider Halliburton, will appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Look for the executives to try to dodge blame for the accident — BP’s CEO has already said the spill “wasn’t our accident.” And in talking points for the hearing leaked to the press, Halliburton “says it safely finished a cementing operation 20 hours before” the April 20 explosion, the AP reports. (More on Halliburton’s role here.)

Also testifying before the committee, which is chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), is the former chief of the Offshore Regulatory Program of the Minerals Management Service.

Then, at 2:30 p.m., Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on the economic and environmental impacts of the spill with the same three corporate witnesses: BP America President Lamar McKay, Transocean President Steven Newman and Halliburton chief health, safety and environment officer Tim Probert.

On Wednesday at 10 a.m., the same three executives will again be on the Hill, this time joined by Jack Moore, chief of blowout preventer manufacturer Cameron International, for a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on investigations. Chaired by formidable investigator Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Energy and Commerce Committee has already demanded documents related to the spill from several of the companies.

The committee has put together a useful timeline (.pdf) of the spill and response efforts.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the House Natural Resources Committee, and the Senate Homeland Security Committee have also announced hearings in the coming weeks.

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