By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. team probing the causes of last year's massive BP oil spill has delayed the release of its final report in order to more fully weigh the evidence, investigators said on Friday.
The government's findings on the spill that killed 11 workers and ravaged the Gulf coast last summer has been widely anticipated by investors for clues on possible legal ramifications BP and its partners may face from the disaster.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was expected to release the results of their joint investigation next Wednesday, but the team said they need more time to "ensure that all evidence is properly weighed and considered."
"The team is in the final stages of completing its report and expects to release it in the near future," the investigative team said in a statement.
The Justice Department has already sued the well's owners, BP, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Mitsui Co Ltd, as well as Transocean, the contractor that owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon rig used to drill the well.
More charges could be brought, however, and the report's findings could also affect lawsuits that BP and its contractors have filed blaming each other for the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Formed shortly after the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig ruptured the Macondo well, the government team was initially supposed to issue its final report earlier this year.
Doc Hastings, the Republican head of the House Natural Resources committee, criticized the delays for the report, saying "we are well past the time when clear answers are needed."
"The Coast Guard and BOEMRE must move swiftly to issue their report to provide Congress and the American people with a complete picture about what happened," Hastings said in a statement.
The Coast Guard released a draft report in April citing serious safety lapses in the lead up to the accident by Transocean, which as the owner and operator of the oil rig, falls under the USCG's jurisdiction.
Transocean has strongly disputed these claims, however.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Alden Bentley)