The media is buzzing this morning with news that federal prosecutors are preparing the first criminal charges against BP in connection with the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The disaster, which killed 11 people and took over 5 months to seal, made headlines last year as the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Sources say prosecutors are focusing on numerous engineers and employees at British Petroleum who may have provided false safety and risk information about the well to regulators.
While BP has previously commented that they are not solely to blame for the disaster (accusing Halliburton of destroying evidence and pointing fingers at a number of outside factors), the company already potentially faces charges in violation of the federal Clean Water Act and over $30 million in fines. In addition, BP will deal with hundreds of lawsuits from coastal property and business owners claiming damages from the enormous spill. The Department of Justice could still decide not to press charges against individuals, as the threat is often used to pressure people into cooperating with investigations.
The felony charges connected with providing false information, if brought forward, may be disclosed early next year and carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine for each individual BP employee.