US Judge to Rule on Deepwater Horizon Penalty
The final phase of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill trial began on Tuesday, January 20th which will see New Orleans District judge determine the amount of the fine that oil giant BP should pay.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster unleashed 3.19 million bbl. of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, according to a recent ruling by US District Judge Carl Barbier, New Orleans. However, the court found that BP was not grossly negligent in its source control efforts.
In line with the ruling, this is one million less from the claimed discharge of 4.19 million bbl. by the US government.
According to BP’s estimates the amount totals in 2.45 million.
The determination of the discharged oil amount is critical as it will serve as the basis for calculation of the fine.
The recent ruling has the projected fine reduced for around USD 4 billion reaching up to USD 13.7 billion for violating the federal Clean Water Act.
Under the Clean Water Act (CWA) if an oil spill has been caused by gross negligence penalties can reach up to USD 4,300.
BP said that during 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.
“BP believes that considering all the statutory penalty factors together weighs in favor of a penalty at the lower end of the statutory range,” the company said.
According to Kara Lankford, Ocean Conservancy’s Interim Director of the Gulf Restoration Program it is time for BP to make it right in the Gulf.
“As the penalty phase of the BP trial begins and we move closer to a resolution of the largest environmental disaster in the U.S., we hope that BP will be held accountable for the maximum Clean Water Act fines. For a successful resolution of this case, we must ensure that funding is made available to monitor the Gulf ecosystem and to restore the offshore environment where the oil disaster began,” she added.
Should BP be ordered to pay the maximum penalty, it would be the largest fine levied by the government for an environmental disaster.
However, environmentalists believe it is still insufficient to cover the human and ecological loss.
Last year, energy company BP was found guilty of gross negligence and willful misconduct for its role in the spill that cost eleven people their lives.
BP had already paid USD 4.5-billion criminal settlement with the Justice Department in 2012 in other proceedings.
World Maritime News Staff, Image: USCG