Holding BP Accountable for Gulf Oil Spill Disaster

For Floridians in the Panhandle, it’s no longer “if” but “when”. The oil spill has now come within 10 miles of the Florida Panhandle and will surely reach our shores sooner rather than later. The environmental and economic damage to our Gulf shores could be devastating for years to come.
The US Justice Department is exploring its options as it seeks to ensure that those who caused the BP oil spill are held legally and financially accountable. According to an editorial in the NY Times, there are several options open to the Justice Department. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, enacted in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill imposes fines for every barrel of oil spilled even if negligence is not determined. The Clean Water Act which allows the government to exact civil and criminal for polluting the Gulf, may also be applied in this case.
BP could also be found liable under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for failing to to obtain the proper federal permits to drill in waters that are inhabited by endangered species such as whales.
Finally, Attorney General Holder will consider two other laws that may help hold BP and other companies liable for the Gulf oil spill disaster: the Migratory Bird Act Treaty and the Endangered Species Act, which provide penalties for injury and death to wildlife and bird species.
While holding BP and the companies responsible for the Gulf oil spill accountable is important and necessary, the more urgent need right now is the protection of our fragile eco-system and a quick and effective resolution to stop the gushing oil.