From the American Association for Justice:
Trial attorneys have long been on the front lines of the environmental movement, opposing corporate plans to wipe out forests, cut down mountain tops, and destroy entire ecosystems. When corporate acts have resulted in devastation for ecosystems and communities, the initial outcry of politicians and regulators has often died out as time has gone by. However, the attorneys seeking justice for such acts fight on, sometimes over decades and against the most powerful corporations on the planet.
When the environmental movement was born in the 1960s and 1970s, a slew of laws were passed to protect the outdoors. But lax enforcement left corporations little incentive to comply. Ultimately, trial attorneys sought justice for communities destroyed by corporate polluters. The BP oil spill will undoubtedly result in long-term devastation. Given the history of corporate behavior in the wake of such disasters, it is clear trial attorneys and the civil justice system will play a vital role in holding BP accountable and helping to return the Gulf to the state it once was.