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Government sues BP, others in Gulf oil spill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Justice Department on Wednesday sued BP Exploration and Production Inc. and eight other companies in the Gulf oil spill disaster in an effort to recover billions of dollars from the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

The Obama administration’s lawsuit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

An explosion that killed 11 workers at BP’s Macondo well last April led to oil spewing from the company’s undersea well — more than 200 million gallons in all by the government’s estimate. BP disputes the figure. The department filed the suit in federal court in New Orleans. The other defendants in the case are Anadarko Exploration & Production LP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; Transocean Holdings LLC and Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and BP’s insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036.

The lawsuit alleges that safety and operating regulations were violated in the period leading up to April 20. It says that the defendants failed to keep the Macondo well under control during that period and failed to use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor the well’s conditions. They also failed to maintain continuous surveillance and failed to maintain equipment and material that were available and necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources and the environment, the suit charges.