By Ben Geman - 05/17/10 09:23 PM EDT
A group of Senate Democrats is pressing the Obama administration to escalate its probe of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by launching a criminal investigation of BP.
Eight members of the Environment and Public Works Committee in a letter Monday to Attorney General Eric Holder asked him to explore whether BP made “false and misleading statements to the federal government regarding its ability to respond to oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The letter points to an exploration plan that BP provided Interior Department regulators in February of 2009 that addresses the company’s ability to respond to a spill.
The document, according to the letter, said a well blowout resulting in a spill would be “unlikely to have an impact based on the industry wide standards for using proven equipment and technology for such responses, implementation of BP’s Regional Oil Spill Response Plan which address available equipment and personnel, techniques for containment and recovery and removal of the oil spill.”
The lawmakers say the ongoing Gulf spill shows the BP document was not accurate.
“In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it does not in any way appear that there was ‘proven equipment and technology’ to respond to the spill, which could have tragic consequences for local economies and the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico,” states the letter to Holder from Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
The letter urges Holder to explore possible violations of both civil and criminal laws. Other senators that signed the letter are: Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)
The committee is holding a hearing Tuesday about the oil spill.