Justice Department expects to sue BP

By Allan Chernoff, CNN senior correspondent


NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Justice Department expects to sue BP for damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill according to a filing made last night with the U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

"At this juncture, the United States expects that it may file a civil complaint related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster," the court document says.

Justice department attorneys tell the Court they may seek claims under the Oil Pollution Act, which was enacted in 1990 after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, and the Clean Water Act, which gives the Government the right to seek potentially huge penalties.

"The Clean Water Act authorizes the United States to seek civil penalties from various entities for oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon spill, in amounts potentially up to $1,100 (and in some circumstances up to $4,300) per barrel of oil spilled," the filing states.

Justice attorneys argue the government may seek compensation for the cost of removing oil; economic damage such as the cost of increased public services and loss of tax revenue; and destruction of natural resources and assessment of that damage.

The Justice Department is asking the court to establish a track separate from the many private claims for pretrial proceedings, in part because its claims "may involve complex scientific and economic expert testimony" that may not be needed to quantify claims from private parties.

The Justice Department has been conducting both civil and criminal investigations into the Deepwater Horizon accident.

CNN has requested and is awaiting comment from BP.

BP (BP) has already agreed to set aside $20 billion over several years to pay for claims resulting from the oil spill.

The company has paid the U.S. government $390-million for the cost of cleanup and last week received an additional bill for $128.5-million from the Obama administration. To top of page

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