Photo credit: US Coast Guard
In light of the presidential report on the Gulf oil spill that's due to be released next week, speculation is running rampant that the companies involved -- BP, Halliburton, and Transocean -- could soon be facing criminal charges. It seems only fair that the companies that caused the largest offshore environmental disaster in US history should be made to face trial, though no individual is likely to do any time as a result. Here's the story, from the Associated Press:
Months of investigation by a presidential commission and other panels reinforce the likelihood that companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will be slapped with criminal charges that could add tens of billions of dollars to the huge fines they already face, legal experts said Thursday ...Since the reports don't name any particular individuals who acted negligently, no blame is likely to be levied any specific people. Instead, the criminal charges are likely to wring heftier fines from the negligent companies.
"The evidence of negligence is too compelling and the harm is too great," said David Uhlmann, former chief of environmental crimes at the Justice Department. "The Justice Department is likely to believe that BP, Transocean and Halliburton were negligent and should be criminally charged. There's no question about that."
The AP notes that "Under the Clean Water Act, BP, alone, already faces up to $21 billion in civil fines." Environmental law expert Gregory Evans "noted that under the Alternative Fines Act, a criminal prosecution would pose the threat of a criminal fine equal to twice the aggregate financial losses caused by the offense."
One study found that the damage to the Gulf tourism industry was likely to amount to $22.7 billion over the next three years -- meaning the guilty companies would have to fork over $45 billion in criminal fines.
Much of this remains speculation, however -- which charges, if any, the negligent companies get hit with remains entirely up in the air.