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The U.S. Justice Department has sued BP and eight other companies for what has been called the “worst oil spill in U.S. history.” The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday, December 15, 2010, in a New Orleans federal court. BP and the other defendants were accused of violating federal regulations and failing to prevent the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire on the offshore drilling rig. The 27-page lawsuit asserts that the “companies failed to use the safest drilling technology and to maintain equipment ‘necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources, and the environment.’”

The lawsuit is seeking civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and a federal statue for cleanup costs and damage to the environment. If BP and the other companies are found to have been engaged in “gross negligence,” each defendant could be fined up to $4,300 per barrel of spilled oil. Authorities estimated that nearly 5 million barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. This case can potentially expose the defendants to tens of billions of dollars in fines, under civil environmental laws. (JusticeNewsFlash, 12/18/2010)