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BP takes Gulf oil spill heat, but what about other companies?

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Among the other companies working on the rig at the time were rig owner Transocean Ltd. and sub-contractors Halliburton Co., Weatherford International Ltd., and M-I SWACO.

Justice Department criminal probe

US Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation focusing on BP as well as on Transocean and on Halliburton, which was doing work to cement the well 20 hours prior to when the spill began.

There are sure to be private and government lawsuits against all companies involved as well, says Zygmunt Plater, a Boston College law professor who chaired the legal research task force for the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, until now the largest offshore spill in US history.

The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, which the Exxon Valdez task force helped shape, essentially focuses the responsibility on one party for the sake of simplicity, says Mr. Plater. In this case BP is that party. However BP can and almost certainly will sue for contributions from other companies that may have been at all responsible for the spill.

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