December 15th, 2010
06:30 PM ET

U.S. joins Gulf oil spill lawsuits, seeks unlimited damages

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/12/15/gulf.oil.lawsuits/story.gulfbp.suit.gi.jpg caption="Workers clean oil from the BP oil spill on Mississippi's Waveland beach December 6, 2010." width=300 height=169]

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - The federal government Wednesday joined the dozens of lawsuits against BP and several other companies over the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, seeking unlimited penalties against all but one firm.

In a lawsuit filed in New Orleans, the Justice Department accuses BP, its partners in the ruptured well and drilling contractor Transocean of failing to take "necessary precautions" to prevent or control the April 20 blowout. The spill eventually dumped an estimated 205 million gallons (4.9 million barrels) of crude into the Gulf over nearly three months.

"We intend to hold them fully accountable for their violations of the law," Attorney General Eric Holder said in announcing the lawsuit.

The suit asks the court for civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and to declare eight of the defendants liable without limitations under the federal Oil Pollution Act. It asks a court to impose all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources, on the companies, according to the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fines under the Clean Water Act can run up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said

"This is about getting a fair deal for the region that suffered enormous consequences from this disaster, and it's also about securing the future of the Gulf," Jackson said.

The suit will join nearly 80 others that have been consolidated before a federal judge in New Orleans. The defendants include BP and oil companies MOEX and Anadarko, which were partners in the Macondo well off Louisiana; Transocean and its partner, Triton Asset Leasing; and Transocean insurer QBE/Lloyd's. The insurer is the only company not being sued under the Clean Water Act or and the only company against which the government is not seeking unlimited damages.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Gulf Oil Spill
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