BP "Grossly Negligent" in 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
by Katie Weatherford, 9/8/2014
On Sept. 4, a federal district court in Louisiana ruled that BP’s “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” resulted in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and resulted in millions of barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. The finding could subject BP to roughly $18 billion in civil penalties under the Clean Water Act, or up to $4,300 for each barrel of oil that spilled into the Gulf.
Judge Carl J. Barbier cited a long list of negligent acts by BP that resulted in the explosion and spill, writing that “[t]hese instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks.” The court also ruled that Transocean and Halliburton were “negligent.” Accordingly, the judge apportioned 67 percent of the fault to BP, 30 percent to Transocean, and three percent to Halliburton.
The decision only addresses the first part of a three-part case concerning liability under the Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, and general maritime law for violations related to the spill. In this first phase, the court decided who was at fault for losing control of the well and the blowout that resulted in the rig explosion, fire, and spill. In the second phase, the court will determine the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf before assessing civil penalties in the final phase.
According to numerous press reports, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder applauded the ruling, saying, “The court’s finding will ensure that the company is held fully accountable for its recklessness” and “will serve as a strong deterrent to anyone tempted to sacrifice safety and the environment in the pursuit of profit.”
The final resolution of the case may be years away. BP has already announced it will appeal the first ruling, noting that the company “strongly disagrees with the decision.”