British Petroleum (BP) is now defending itself in court against charges of gross negligence in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, facing a penalty of as much as $18 billion if convicted.
The Clean Water Act authorizes a penalty of up to $1,100 per barrel for spills, but up to $4,300 in cases of gross negligence. It is estimated that 4–5 billion barrels spilled into the Gulf.
The trail, which opened Monday in New Orleans, will be conducted in two phases. The first will determine the distribution of blame among involved parties, a process which could last months, reports AP. The second phase will determine the number of barrels BP is liable for.
“Gross negligence is a very high bar that BP believes cannot be met in this case,” said Rupert Bondy, Group General Counsel of BP, in a Feb. 19 press release. “This was a tragic accident, resulting from multiple causes and involving multiple parties. We firmly believe we were not grossly negligent.”
BP contests that 810,000 barrels recovered in the Macondo reservoir before entering the Gulf should be counted in determining the penalties under the Clean Water Act. These barrels would add more than $3 billion to BP’s tab if the maximum penalty for gross negligence is applied.
The oil giant is already on the hook for $28 billion after pleading guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges, and after other criminal penalties were applied, according to AP.
As of Feb. 19, Barclays Capital estimated BP could have still reached a settlement with the Department of Justice for around $13.2 billion.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.