BP Oil Spill: Four Years Later
October 8, 2014
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BP Found ‘Grossly Negligent’ for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In early September, a federal judge in Louisiana found that BP was “grossly negligent” and “reckless” for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which caught national headlines for months and resulted in billions of dollars of economic costs to the region.  The offshore rig explosion and resulting oil spill, which has been called the worst offshore environmental disaster in U.S. history, killed 11 workers and sent hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.   Now, BP is facing up to $18 billion of fines as a result of this recent ruling.

Judge Carl Barbier of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that BP was mostly at fault for the explosion and oil spill and that its conduct amounted to gross negligence and recklessness.  As a result, BP is subject to enhanced civil penalties under the federal Clean Water Act.  BP has announced that it will appeal the decision, calling the judge’s ruling “erroneous.”  The appeal process could potentially push the issuance and payment of final penalties years down the road.


If the ruling stands, the final penalty will be based on how much oil is determined to have been spilled and what, if anything, BP did to mitigate the damage.  This equation governing the amount BP will pay is set forth in the Clean Water Act, which assesses a per-barrel penalty for oil spills.  The statutory maximum penalty is $1,100 per barrel when the court finds simple negligence and $4,300 per barrel when the court finds gross negligence. The trial which to determine the penalty BP will be responsible for paying is set for January 2015.  The other companies Judge Barbier identified as sharing responsibility for the damage from the oil spill are Transocean and Halliburton.  However, with respect to those two companies, the judge found their conduct merely “negligent.”

Like most people, Ashcraft & Gerel recognizes the catastrophic effects this spill had on the environment, the people in the affected area, as well as the economic blow to surrounding communities. We have successfully represented individuals who have suffered injury due to environmental disasters and are familiar with the struggles things like disastrous oil spills cause. We will be closely monitoring developments in this case