As the plaintiffs' bar gears up in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Justice Department is sending its own team of attorneys to New Orleans to meet with federal prosecutors and response teams.
Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division, who will head the DOJ team, is joining Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Civil Division, the Justice Department said today. Moreno and West are expected to meet with U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
“The British Petroleum oil spill has already cost lives and created a major environmental incident,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a statement today. “The Justice Department stands ready to make available every resource at our disposal to vigorously enforce the laws that protect the people who work and reside near the Gulf, the wildlife, the environment and the American taxpayers.”
President Barack Obama said today that the spill, which followed the April 20 explosion of a drilling rig 130 miles southeast of New Orleans, is worsening. Obama said BP is “ultimately responsible under the law for paying the costs of response and cleanup operations, but we are fully prepared to meet our responsibilities to any and all affected communities.”
On Thursday, plaintiffs’ lawyer Daniel Becnel Jr. filed a class action in New Orleans federal district court over damages caused by the rig explosion. The suit was filed on behalf of Louisiana shrimpers, fisherman and commercial boaters. Becnel said he anticipates the class will grow since oil is still leaking and winds are driving the slick. "Every hour, it's going to get bigger," Becnel said Thursday of the class.