United States government officials have confirmed they will sue BP for allegedly violating safety regulations following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Eight other companies will also face legal action, with the lawsuit seeking to establish if they are liable – without limitation – for the cleanup costs.
The BP operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th this year, killing 11 workers.
Some 4.9 million barrels of oil were subsequently released into the ocean in what became the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States.
Charging the companies under the US Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, US attorney general Eric Holder said the complaint alleged “violations of safety and operational regulations” had caused the explosion.
Also accused are Anadarko Exploration & Production LP, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc, Transocean Deepwater Inc and insurer QBE Underwriting Ltd/Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036.
“We intend to prove that these defendants are responsible for government removal costs, economic losses and environmental damages without limitation,” Mr Holder went on to explain.
“As investigations continue, we will not hesitate to take whatever steps necessary to hold accountable those responsible for this spill.”
The accused face charges of falling to use the safest drilling technology, failing to maintain continuous surveillance, failing to take the necessary steps to keep the Macondo well under control and failing to ensure the safety of personnel.
In a statement, BP said the filing “does not in any manner constitute any finding of liability or any judicial finding that the allegations have merit”.
BP said it would continue to co-operate with government inquiries and fulfil its commitments to clean up spilt oil in the Gulf.
BP’s investigation into the disaster – branded by Barack Obama as an “environmental 9/11” – concluded “no single factor” was responsible for the disaster and that “a sequence of failures involving a number of different parties” were to blame.
Halliburton, the company that cemented the Macondo well, and Cameron International, which provided equipment for the well, were not targeted in the lawsuit.
No time frame was given for legal proceedings to be begin, but the process is likely to take years.