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Gulf oil spill: Senators call for criminal, civil charges against BP

May 17, 2010 |  3:36 pm
Eight senators urged U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric J. Holder on Monday to open up an inquiry of oil giant BP in connection with the April 20 well blowout that has been pouring an estimated 210,000 gallons of crude daily into the Gulf of Mexico.

The senators -- seven Democrats, including California's Barbara Boxer, and one independent -- asked Holder to examine whether BP "made false and misleading statements to the federal government regarding its ability to respond to oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico."

The letter comes on the heels of last week's congressional hearings in which executives for the companies involved in the disaster were grilled by separate panels.

The letter noted that BP's exploration plan had assured the Minerals Management Service that an unanticipated blowout and spill "is unlikely to have an impact [on fish habitat], based on the industrywide standards for using proven equipment and technology for such responses."

The senators questioned the “proven equipment and technology” to respond to the spill, adding: "Much of the response and implementation of spill control technologies appears to be taking place on an ad hoc basis."

BP, the letter noted, issued a recent statement describing its methods to contain the oil "involve significant uncertainties because they have not been tested in these conditions before.”

The Justice Department already has sent a team to the gulf to investigate the spill.

The letter was signed by senators Boxer,  Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.); Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

There was no immediate response from BP.

-- Geoff Mohan