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Attorney General Opens Criminal Investigation of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

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The U.S. Attorney General announced yesterday that his office has opened a criminal probe into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

At a news conference in New Orleans yesterday, Eric Holder said his department’s investigation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will focus on possible violations of the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Act.

Holder promised is department will ensure that taxpayer money will be repaid and that damage to the environment and wildlife will be reimbursed.

“We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who has violated the law,” he said. “This disaster is nothing less than a tragedy.”

Relevant parties have already been directed to preserve documents related to the disaster, Holder said. The Attorney General would not say what companies are being targeted by the probe, but they likely include BP, which leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, TransOcean LTD, owner and operator of the rig, Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., a contractor aboard the rig, and Cameron International Corp., which manufactured the rig’s failed blowout preventer.

Meanwhile, BP today hit a snag in its latest try at slowing the flow from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well. ccording to MSNBC, a robotic diamond-edged saw being used to cut a thick pipe on the sea floor has become stuck in the pipe.

The saw was making the second of two cuts in a so-called “cut and cap” procedure. Once the second cut is made, the plan is to lower a containment dome to capture most – but not all – of the oil flow and send it up to a tanker on the surface.

At a briefing today, Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, who is commanding the federal response to the oil spill, said the second cut will be made. According to MSNBC, engineers may have to bring in a second saw awaiting on a boat to make the cut. It is not known how long this setback will delay the operation.

Of course, the massive oil spill triggered by the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig continues to grow. Already, the oil has washed ashore along 125 miles of Louisiana coast line, and is moving onto barrier islands along Alabama and Mississippi.

Florida is likely next. A sheen of oil was spotted about 10 miles off of Pensacola Beach this morning, and the spill could make landfall there in the next day or two.

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