DOJ Signals Plans to File Civil Suit in Gulf Spill

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Sep. 14, 2010

The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that it expects to file a civil suit in relation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, asking the court handling hundreds of private cases to give government and state plaintiffs special consideration.

In a court filing, the agency set out its views on how the cases should be handled, saying that the U.S. government had "potential civil claims arising from the spill." The agency cited several statutes under which the federal government could bring suits and claim damages, including the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act.

"At this juncture, the United States expects that it may file a civil complaint related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster under these provisions and possibly others," the Justice Department said in its filing, which was made with the federal court in Louisiana that is
handling civil suits filed against BP and other defendants in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. BP declined to comment.

The Justice Department has parallel civil and criminal investigations into the Gulf oil spill, one of the largest and most complex
environmental cases ever handled by the agency.

While it isn't yet a party to the proceedings, the Justice Department asked the court to consider its interests as it decides how to proceed with the cases pending against the companies involved in the disaster.

Arguing that the government and states had a "unique role" in oil spill cases, the agency asked the court to set up a special "government track" to handle their claims separately. Only government entities can make claims for certain damages, it said, such as for the loss of natural resources, tax revenues or royalties.

"As we have said from the beginning, we are committed to ensuring that those responsible clean up the mess they made, restore or replace the natural resources lost or injured in this tragedy, and repay every cent of taxpayer money," said a Justice Department spokeswoman.

This week, New Orleans federal judge Carl Barbier is scheduled to hold the first hearing in relation to the oil spill since more than 300
separate suits for economic losses and wrongful death were consolidated at the same court.

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