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.

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.

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Oil spill commission makes its recommendations, but will Congress act?

This week, a federal commission released its report on the causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and what can be done to ensure it doesn't happen again. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Wednesday that he was already working on legislation that would address one of those recommendations — raising the limit on the amount of damages for which companies responsible for spills can be held liable.