The White House and Department of Justice have announced civil and
criminal probes into the oil spill that has been devastating the Gulf of
Mexico for over a month. The move comes as BP's efforts to stop the
leak continue to fail
and as the
Obama administration struggles for a
way to take charge
of the steadily worsening situation. Officials
have announced they are abandoning plans to plug the leak, instead
siphoning off as much oil as possible until relief wells can be
completed, likely not until August. In the meantime, what can this probe
- Who Could Be Charged and With What The New
York Times' Helene Cooper and Peter Baker
explain, "Administration officials said they were reviewing violations
of the Clean Water Act, which carries criminal and civil penalties and
fines; the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can be used to hold parties
responsible for cleanup costs; the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the
Endangered Species Act, which provide penalties for injury and death of
wildlife." They add that it's not clear whether charges would be brought
against BP, drill leaser Transocean, or Halliburton, which provided
some contracting work.
- Political Damage Control for Obama
The Wall Street Journal's Thomas Catan and Guy
Chazan call this "the latest move by the Obama administration to
show it is taking aggressive action amid bipartisan criticism of its
response to the disaster. ... Mr. Holder's Tuesday statement is the
latest move by the Obama administration to challenge BP, even as it
relies on the oil giant for the technology to stop the spill. The White
House has come under fire from Democrats and Republicans for its
response to the disaster, and for relying too heavily on BP to control
information about the spill and the technology to fight it."
From Cleanup or Improve It? The Wall Street Journal reports, "[Attorney General
Eric] Holder said that he believes parties that might be probed
such as BP, however, have an incentive to redouble their cleanup efforts
since they would likely want to 'mitigate whatever damages they have
caused.'" But liberal blogger Jeralyn suspects otherwise:
"Since the Government doesn't have the ability and expertise to remedy
the crisis on its own, it doesn't seem like a good time to be alienating
those who might be able to provide a solution by threatening
prosecution. Can't that wait?"
- Curb Future Offshore Drilling
The Washington Post's Michael Shear says Obama
"hinted that future support for new oil drilling in the deep waters off
the nation's coast would be contingent on what the commission finds. He
said decisions about any expansion of drilling -- which he had announced
just weeks before the spill -- would wait until the group finishes."
Already Hurting BP The New York Times' Jad Mouawad and John
Schwartz report, "BP shareholders are fleeing the company's stock
amid growing uncertainty about the ultimate bill for cleanup costs,
lawsuits, fines and damage to the oil giant's reputation. BP's shares
fell an additional 15 percent on Tuesday ... Since the Deepwater Horizon
drilling rig exploded April 20, the company has lost a third of its
market value, or about $75 billion."
What If It Turns Up Nothing? The Awl's Choire Sicha writes, "Maybe, just maybe, the
investigation by the US Attorney General into the companies
involved with the Gulf Oil Disaster will actually reveal something
illegal and they can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
However, "despite the oily consequences, it's perfectly likely that
- How Republicans Could Respond Liberal
blogger John Cole projects, "And now,
in the next 24 hours, we watch all the Republicans and their talking
heads in the media suddenly shift gears from 'Why is Obama not doing
enough to hold BP accountable' to 'Why is Obama attacking big businesses
and destroying our economy.' And they'll do it without missing a beat."
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