WSJ: BP Execs May Face Criminal Charges Over Spill

Dec 29, 2011 9:43am

BP employees could face criminal charges related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, which caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history and killed 11 workers. The Wall Street Journal reported prosecutors are focused on several engineers based in Houston and at least one of their supervisors at the oil company, though the details of the investigation are unknown.

The prosecutors may accuse employees for providing false information to federal regulators about the risks associated with the Gulf of Mexico well while its drilling was in progress,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.

Daren Beaudo, a spokesperson for BP America, declined to comment to ABC News.

After an explosion on April 20, 2010 that killed 11 workers, millions of gallons of crude oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, causing damage to the the ecosystem and local economy. BP and the owner of the rig that exploded, Transocean, pointed fingers at each other to try to escape liability.

According to the Journal’s sources, the felony charges might be disclosed in early 2012, if they are pursued. Providing false information in federal documents could have a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine, according to the newspaper.

The Department of Justice still could decide not to bring charges against the individuals, according to sources.

“It’s not unusual for prosecutors to use the threat of charges to pressure people to cooperate in investigations,” the Journal’s Tom Fowler wrote.

On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed prosecutors’ argument that a BP subsidiary violated its probation after an oil spill because of another spill on Alaska’s North Slope, the Associated Press reported. Judge Ralph Beistline also lifted BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.’s probation altogether.

In 2007, BP had been convicted of negligent discharge of oil for a 200,000-gallon spill on the North Slope during the previous year. In 2009, there was another spill of 13,500 gallons.

Beistline said the government failed to prove the oil company committed criminal negligence.

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