The US is suing BP and eight other firms for allegedly violating federal safety regulations in connection with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The lawsuit asks that they be held liable without limitation for all clean-up and damage costs.
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in April killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil over several months.
The oil leak was described as the worst environmental disaster in US history.
The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion led to what was described as the worst environmental catastrophe in US history
The lawsuit charges the companies under the US Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said the complaint alleged that "violations of safety and operational regulations" caused the 20 April explosion.
The companies named in the lawsuit are BP Exploration and Production Inc, Anadarko Exploration & Production LP, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, Triton Asset Leasing GMBH, Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc, Transocean Deepwater Inc and insurer QBE Underwriting Ltd/Lloyd's Syndicate 1036.
The key accusations are:
- Failing to take necessary precautions to keep the Macondo well under control in the period leading up to the 20 April explosion
- Failing to use the best available and safest drilling technology to monitor the well's conditions
- Failing to maintain continuous surveillance
- Failing to use and maintain equipment and material that were available and necessary to ensure the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources and the environment
Before the White House's announcement on Wednesday, more than 300 lawsuits had been filed related to the spill and consolidated in federal courts in New Orleans.
People working in the fishing and tourism industries, as well as the owners of restaurants and various properties along the Gulf of Mexico, were among those involved in the suits.
The latest news on the BP oil spill follows the federal government's decision not to open new areas of the coast along the eastern Gulf and Atlantic to drilling.
Eleven workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig were killed by the explosion on 20 April, and hundreds of miles of coast were polluted before the leaking well was closed off in July. Read Full