Third Phase of BP Civil Suit Began Tuesday!!
I love Federal District Judge Carl Barbier. He’s truly been our Master of Disaster as the judge of record for the civil suit that has been hounding international oil giant British Petroleum the last two years. BP is facing the biggest oil pollution penalty in US history arising from the April 2010 Macondo oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 people.
The very complex three phase case began in 2013. Phase one assigned blame for the massive spill- BP was to blame for the spill and it’s actions were grossly negligent; phase two determined how many barrels of oil were spilled- Thursday, Barbier ruled 3.19 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf during the maelstrom; and phase three determines how exactly the humongous size of the penalty BP will pay. That is the phase starting Monday. BP could be liable for up to $13.7 billion in fines. BP claims to have paid out $42 billion in oil spill costs so far, including $15 billion in cleanup efforts.
I’ve written extensively about this trial and the spill. Here is a past story. Here is another. I marvel at how fast Barbier was able to conduct all three phases of the complicated case in two years, an amazing feat. Compare that to the Exxon Valdez disaster, where litigation continued for 20 years!
When the trial began, oil was $100 a barrel, and BP was making an obscene amount of money per month. Two years later, the price of oil has collapsed to $40-50 per barrel, making a shambles out of those huge profits, and BP is facing all these billions in Clean Water Act fines. BP has to come up with $10 billion more than it has set aside. How the mighty has fallen!
In court, BP will now cry poverty! I’m laughing as I’m writing this as it’s funny funny funny! Nevertheless the poor house tactic will probably work to some degree. The dro
BP is arguing for a lower fine but the government is seeking the maximum, based on Barbier’s ruling that BP actions were grossly negligent. Barbier’s ruling that 3.19 million barrels were dumped in the Gulf was halfway between the federal government higher estimate and BP’s lower one. Multiply that by the maximum fine of $4,300 per barrel and you get $13.7 billion. That is the most BP will pay under the Clean Water Act civil liabilities clause. The majority of the funds will go to the five Gulf states most impacted by the spill.
Barbier will consider how well BP did cleaning up the Gulf in assessing the multi-billion dollar fine. The general consensus is BP did well the first few years, then sort of petered out. I hope Barbier doesn’t give them much of a break.