US Justice to set up oil spill probe task force

WASHINGTON, March 7 Mon Mar 7, 2011 6:10pm EST

WASHINGTON, March 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday that it will create a single task force to oversee all aspects of its criminal investigation into last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A department spokesman said the task force will be led by a criminal division senior counsel, John Buretta, and will be supervised by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who is in charge of the department's criminal division.

The criminal division, the environment and natural resources division and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans have been working for months on various investigations into the April 20 drilling rig explosion and the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

On June 1 of last year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department had launched a criminal and civil investigation into BP Plc's (BP.L) (BP.N) oil spill involving the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blowout. It spilled about 4.9 million barrels of oil over several months.

The spokesman said the task force will be created in an attempt "to maximize department resources devoted to the criminal investigation" and "to avoid duplication of effort."

He said the decision to establish a single task force was made by Deputy Attorney General James Cole. (Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Carol Bishopric)

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