Feds Launch Criminal Probe Into BP Spill

Photo <a href="http://www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=9033571&contentId=7061902">© BP p.l.c.</a>.

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Also: James Ridgeway writes about the oil industry’s slimy history—and why no oil exec has ever gone to jail for environmental devastation.

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it is conducting a criminal probe into the explosion, and that the federal government is weighing both criminal and civil penalties for the disaster. The administration, Holder said, wants to “make sure the American people don’t foot the bill for this” and will be “meticulous, comprehensive and aggressive” in doing so.

“We have begun both a criminal as well as a civil investigation as is our obligation under the law,” Holder told reporters following a meeting with state and federal prosecutors in New Orleans. “Our environmental laws are very clear.”

He also said that the government will be “forceful” in its response if “evidence of illegal behavior is found. He added, however, that they believe there is “sufficient basis” to begin a criminal probe. In the past days, more evidence has come to light that BP ignored warning signs at the well and cut corners.

There are a variety of laws at their disposal in coming after BP: The Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Endangered Species Act. As I reported earlier, the company could already face up to $4.6 billion in civil penalties for Clean Water Act violations alone. Senators have also asked the DOJ to look into whether the company made false claims about its ability to respond to a disaster.

Last week, Ronald Weich, an assistant attorney general, informed senators that the DOJ has issued formal demands to BP, Transocean and other companies to “ensure the preservation of potentially relevant information.” The demands also outlined the “legal requirements for preserving evidence in anticipation of litigation,” Weich wrote.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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