BP still faces possible $13.7 billion Gulf spill fine

BP still faces possible $13.7 billion Gulf spill fine U.S. Coast Guard photograph

JANUARY 19, 2015 —The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled last week on the issues raised in the Phase 2 trial of the Deepwater Horizon case: the quantification of oil spilled and BP's source control efforts following the accident.

The Court found that 3.19 million barrels of oil were discharged into the Gulf of Mexico and therefore subject to a Clean Water Act (CWA) penalty. In addition, the Court found that BP was not grossly negligent in its source control efforts.

In reaching the 3.19 million barrel figure, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbie rejected both the government's 4.2 million barrel estimate and BP's 2.45 million barrel figure.

Had the judge accepted the government number, BP could have faced a penalty of $17.6 billion, Even using the lower total, though, the maximum possible fine of $13.7 billion would still be the largest ever U.S. pollution penalty.

Tomorrow is set to see the start of the third stage of the CWA trial. It will address the penalty to be assessed.

BP says that in the penalty proceedings, the Court is required to consider the application of eight statutory factors, including the violator's efforts to minimize or mitigate the effects of the spill; the seriousness of the violation or violations; the nature, extent, and degree of success of any efforts of the violator to minimize or mitigate the effects of the discharge; the economic impact of the penalty on the violator; the economic benefit to the violator, if any, resulting from the violation; the degree of culpability involved; any other penalty for the same incident; any history of certain types of prior violations; and any other matters as justice may require.  

BP says it "believes that considering all the statutory penalty factors together weighs in favor of a penalty at the lower end of the statutory range."

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