If successful the damages from the lawsuit would be on top of the $20bn that BP has already agreed to pay into a fund to compensate people on the Gulf coast who have suffered financially because of the spill.
The final damages figure depends on the US government’s ability to prove gross negligence.
The lawsuit seeks damages from BP, Transocean, Anadarko Petroleum Corp, Mitsui & Co unit MOEX and Transocean’s insurer Lloyds of London for their roles in the worst oil spill in US history.
The US Justice Department asked a federal judge in New Orleans overseeing the litigation related to the oil spill to hold the companies liable, except for Lloyds, for unlimited damages, beyond the $75m cap under the US Oil Pollution Act.
BP said the lawsuit was “solely a statement of the government’s allegations and does not in any manner constitute any finding of liability or any judicial finding that the allegations have merit”.
Also yesterday, BP said it was examining a possible sale of its Canadian natural-gas liquids business as it seeks to raise up to $30bn to pay for its Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The unit, which includes pipelines and processing stations, could go for $2bn.