Federal investigators are looking into whether British Petroleum representatives lied to Congress after the Deepwater Horizon accident two years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported. Officials are investigating whether BP's engineers downplayed the size of the leak and withheld data from the government that would reveal how large the leak really was.
Prosecutors are looking at statements from 2010. In one statement, BP employees discussed their guesses for the rate at which oil was spilling from the damaged well. And in one email viewed by The WSJ, a BP engineer told others not to share data about the leak size "outside the circle of trust."
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This new investigation could affect BP's final bill for civil fines under the US Clean Water Act, the Houston Business Journal reported. The government estimates about 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled in total, which means BP may have to pay as much as $21 billion in fines. BP's estimates about the amount of oil that leaked, meanwhile, were somewhere between 20 to 50 percent less than the government's figures, according to the Business Journal.
This investigation isn't the first time that BP has been accused of downplaying the amount of oil spilling. In 2010, an independent scientist testified in Congress said that there was no way BP's figures about the spill could be accurate, NPR reported.
"This faulty logic that BP is using, of course, is unfortunately raising real concerns that they are hiding the full extent of the potential damage of this leak," Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) told NPR in 2010.