Outrage over 2010 BP spill charge dismissal

May 21, 2013 at 7:17 AM

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- A member of Congress who led an investigation into the BP oil spill in 2010 expressed outrage that a judge threw out a charge against a former BP executive.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt from the Eastern District of Louisiana dismissed a charge of obstructing a congressional investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, ruling the indictment was flawed.

Former BP Vice President of Gulf of Mexico Exploration David Rainey was accused of underestimating the volume of oil spilled in May 2010. Engelhardt said Rainey didn't fully understand he was responding to a formal congressional investigation when he made his statements.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass, ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to appeal the decision.

"This was a congressional investigation, plain and simple, and this kind of narrow and off-the wall interpretation of how Congress investigates wrongdoing is deeply troubling," Markey said in a statement.

Rainey, testifying in a closed-door briefing in May 2010 before Markey, who was the chairman of the House committee, said the flow rate from the Macondo well that failed in 2010 was about 5,000 barrels per day. BP's internal records suggested the flow rate was closer to 60,000 bpd.

Rainey's lawyer Reid Weingarten told Bloomberg News the court's decision "gutted the government's case" against his client. Rainey faces trial in October on charges he lied to investigators about the spill.

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr told Bloomberg News federal officials were reviewing Engelhardt's decision. Engelhardt was nominated to the federal bench in 2001 by President George W. Bush.

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