AOL: Civil and criminal investigations on Gulf spill are being pursued

Attorney General Eric Holder, during a visit to the Gulf today, announced that civil and criminal investigations about the spill are under way. Prosecutors are examining thousands of pages of e-mails, repair logs and other documents to see whether oil giant BP and its contractors have willfully violated federal safety regulations.

“If it turns out to have been misleading conduct, false statements, concealment or withholding of information, then there’s a whole laundry list of other charges that could materialize,” said David Uhlmann, former head of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section.

During the announcement, Holder said prosecutors will be focus on violations pertaining to the Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, Migratory Bird Treaty, and the Endangered Species Act.

President Obama has asked Congress for $10 million to finance the investigations.

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VIDEO: CBS News: BP’s Criminal Past

topkillvid
topkillvid
Shortly after BP began its “top kill” operation, CBS news sat down with BP CEO Tony Hayward. The interview focused on the company’s corporate culture and controversial record on safety and the environment.

Reporter Armen Keteyian asked, “Is there something fundamentally wrong with the BP culture that puts profits above all else?” Hayward replied that the focus throughout his three year tenure as CEO has been on safe and reliable operations.

But those who have investigated BP in the past see an all too familiar pattern in BP’s behavior today. The world’s third largest energy company has been convicted of three environmental crimes in the last 10 years. The convictions involved failing to report dumping on the North Slope of Alaska, violating the Clean Air Act, and ignoring leaks in the Alaskan pipeline.

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The Washington Post: U.S. agency overseeing oil drilling ignored warnings of risks

Documents show that the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the federal agency responsible for regulating offshore oil drilling, repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists regarding environmental risks as it pushed to quickly approve energy exploration activities. MMS officials receive cash bonuses for meeting federal deadlines on leasing offshore oil and gas exploration.

Other federal government scientists such as some in NOAA and the Marine Mammal Commission have tried to raise red flags in the past under both the Bush and Obama administration but their appeals were disregarded.

The actions of MMS are partly shaped by the 2005 regulation that assumes oil and gas companies can best evaluate the environmental impact of their operations.

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NY Times: Despite Moratorium, Drilling Projects Move Ahead

At least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted since President Obama announced a moratorium on the issuance of new drilling permits for offshore oil wells and put an end to the controversial type of environmental waiver that was given to the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The waivers are intended for minimal-risk projects, but waivers have been given to at least six drilling projects that are in deeper waters than the Deepwater Horizon rig and are therefore more dangerous.

Department of Interior officials explained why they granted the permits, saying that some of the projects are necessary for safety of the existing wellbore. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration classified some of the drilling types as being as hazardous as new well drilling.

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