Publication Title

Washington Journal of Environmental Law and Policy


Clean Water Act, Deepwater Horizon, Oil Polluiton Act, oil spill

Document Type



The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of April 20, 2010 initiated an environmental disaster that presented attorneys on both sides of the legal action with monumental challenges. Using the satirical format of a memo written by the corporate defense counsel to BP America four days after the spill began, this article investigates BP’s potential liability and strategic defense positions available in criminal and civil proceedings. Major federal environmental laws, including the Oil Pollution Act, the Clean Water Act and major wildlife protection statutes, are implicated by the Spill. The memo provides a clear picture of the existing opportunities for a responsible party to minimize liability in the face of incriminating evidence.

This article argues that the successful use of legal precedents, tactical defenses and the enhanced role of the responsible party in response and restoration, will minimize BP America’s liability and civil and criminal penalties resulting from the Spill, to the detriment of the prevention of future environmental crimes.



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