Feb 19 2013

Finally Forced to Prosecute?

BP to fight government’s ‘excessive’ demands over Deepwater oil spill

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

19 February 2013 13.17 EST

The trial is the last major hurdle to BP’s efforts to move beyond the fatal blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which killed 11 people and resulted in the biggest oil spill in US history.

BP has already accepted criminal responsibility for the disaster, pleading guilty last November to manslaughter and lying to Congress and paying $4.5bn in fines. It reached a separate $7.8bn settlement earlier last year with thousands of local individuals that suffered economic damages because of the oil disaster.

The Justice Department has said it would set out to prove that BP was “grossly negligent” in its response to the spill – a designation that would increase the burden of fines on the oil company to $4,300 a barrel.

Federal government scientists have estimated that 4.9m barrels of oil were released before the well was finally capped. BP, in its statement on Tuesday, repeated its argument that estimate was too high – going so far as to accuse the federal government of exaggerating its findings.

BP has consistently argued that the government’s estimate is off by about 20% – and said that at most it should be liable for 3.1m barrels of spilled oil.

The company also demanded the federal government subtract about 810,000 barrels of oil siphoned off directly from the well, without entering Gulf waters. That would shave another $3.4bn off the maximum $21bn penalty.

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