Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who oversaw the criminal prosecution of Exxon for its role in the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, said it is too early to say where the Justice Department’s investigation into the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is headed.
“It’s tempting to draw parallels between one investigation and another,” Thornburgh said in a Wednesday afternoon interview with Fox News. But the Exxon Valdez involved a different set of facts, he added.
In the Exxon Valdez case, the Justice Department charged Exxon and its subsidiary with five criminal charges including two felonies. The company eventually agreed to a settlement and paid $100 million in criminal fines and restitution and nearly $1 billion in civil fines.
On Wednesday, Thornburgh said a wide range of statutes could apply in the investigation into the Gulf oil spill, but “none of those are worthy of discussion until you have all the facts in hand.”
A grand jury will likely be convened to determine the facts, said Thornburgh.
He said he sympathizes with those in the Gulf who don’t immediately know if they can expect financial relief for the losses they sustain as a result of the spill. Thornburgh said litigation is going to be inevitable.
“You’ve got a wide variety of investigative resources here in addition to the federal authorities” including local authorities, that those handling the response to the spill should take advantage of, Thornburgh said.