Gulf oil spill: U.S. may sue oil companies

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WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it expected to file a civil suit against the oil companies involved in the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for violation of federal environmental laws.

An eight-page notice of a possible suit was given by federal prosecutors Monday evening to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans. Barbier was presiding over about 300 separate civil lawsuits for economic damages and wrongful deaths in the spill, which began April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon rig caught fire and exploded.

The action by the Department of Justice could ultimately lead to heavy civil fines against British Petroleum or Transocean Ltd, the drilling-rig owner. Or, if federal laws were deliberately broken, the investigation could result in federal criminal charges against the companies, officials said.

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