The first criminal charges have been filed against a former BP employee in connection with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.
The United States Attorney General office charged a BP engineer with obstruction of justice after allegations surfaced that he destroyed evidence needed by government investigators, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
Kurt Mix, 50, of Katy, Texas, was arrested on two charges of obstruction of justice, according to a criminal complaint filed in Louisiana. The charges stemmed from an incident when he deleted text messages related to the spill.
Attorney General Eric Holder explained in a statement that Mix is accused of deleting records related to the amount of oil flowing from the Macondo well after it erupted, killing 11 crew members and releasing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the three months the well was open.
Included in the information Mix allegedly deleted were estimates that oil was flowing at a rate of 15,000 barrels per day, according to court documents
"At the time, BP's public estimate of the flow rate was 5,000 (barrels per day),'' prosecutors said in court documents.
BP issued a statement in which the company stated that it is currently cooperating with the federal investigation.
"BP is cooperating with the Department of Justice and other official investigations into the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill," according to the statement.
Justice Department officials said Mix would make an initial appearance in federal court in Houston on Tuesday afternoon.
"The Deepwater Horizon Task Force is continuing its investigation into the explosion and will hold accountable those who violated the law in connection with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history," Holder said.
If convicted, Mix faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.