But the suit doesn't mean that the feds are done with the oil industry. Attorney General Eric Holder called the criminal investigation and the civil inquiry "an ongoing process" and said it was "conceivable" that other litigants could be added to the civil suit if new evidence developed.
Holder admitted that it was "difficult to have parallel proceedings going on at the same time" but said the Justice Department had been careful to ensure they don't do anything that violates the rules they have to follow on the criminal side while at the same time moving forward on the civil side. "It's been a little tricky, but I think we've been successful."
He said he couldn't give a time frame for when criminal action might be taken and declined to describe the cooperation of the companies.
"While today's civil action marks a critical step forward, it is not a final step," Holder told reporters Wednesday.
The suit, announced by Holder and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at a news conference at Justice Department headquarters, claims that the companies failed to: take necessary precautions to keep the Macondo Well under control in the period leading up to the April 20th explosion; use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor the well's conditions; maintain continuous surveillance; and use and maintain equipment and material that were available and necessary.
The suit names BP Exploration and Production Inc.; Anadarko Exploration & Production LP and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc., and Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and BP's insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd's Syndicate 1036.