The U.S. Department of Justice is considering whether to charge BP managers with manslaughter for their role in the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion that killed 11 and caused the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, according to Bloomberg.
The Justice Department is looking at whether cost-cutting decisions by these managers warrant involuntary manslaughter or seaman’s manslaughter, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years, Bloomberg reports:
Charging individuals would be significant to environmental safety cases because it might change behavior, said Jane Barrett, a law professor at the University of Maryland.
“They typically don’t prosecute employees of large corporations,” said Barrett, who spent 20 years prosecuting environmental crimes at the federal and state levels. “You’ve got to prosecute the individuals in order to maximize, and not lose, the deterrent effect.”
Federal officials are also said to be looking at whether BP CEO Tony Hayward and others were truthful in sworn testimony to Congress about the spill.
In a forthcoming article about the gulf oil spill, former DOJ environmental crimes section chief David Uhlmann writes that it is important for the DOJ to pursue criminal charges against BP because criminal prosecution is a more powerful expression of societal condemnation of the negligence that caused the spill.