The FBI said today it has opened an investigation into the nation’s worst oil spill, the crash of the tanker Exxon Valdez off the Alaskan coast, to determine whether Exxon USA or its employees committed criminal violations of the Clean Water Act.
The investigation is focusing on whether the spill of 10 million gallons of crude oil constituted “a negligent discharge of a pollutant into navigable waters of the United States,” bureau spokesman Bill Carter said.
Disclosure of the FBI’s involvement came a day after Exxon fired the tanker captain, Joseph Hazelwood, upon receiving a report from federal investigators that he had failed a blood-alcohol test taken 10 hours after the accident, meaning he was drunk by legal definition.
Only Tuesday, Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh said the Justice Department is monitoring the developments in Alaska, but would not “send the sleuths in” to investigate until the cleanup was under control.
Carter said in a statement that “the FBI’s Anchorage field office is conducting an investigation into the oil spill” in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.
‘Possible Criminal Violations’
“The FBI’s investigation is focusing on possible criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, Title 33, USC (United States Code) Section 1251 and specifically, negligent discharge of a pollutant into navigable waters of the United States.”
That section carries penalties ranging from fines of $50,000 per day to five years’ imprisonment.
“This investigation is being fully coordinated with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice’s Land and Natural Resources Division, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. attorney’s office and the Alaska attorney general’s office,” the statement said.