HOUSTON/LONDON (Reuters) – BP will battle to hold down fines that could hit $18 billion in a new phase of the Gulf of Mexico trial that will rule on how much oil it spilled in 2010 and judge its efforts…
BP says 3.26 million barrels leaked from the well during the nearly three months it took to cap the blowout at the Deepwater Horizon rig; the U.S. government says it was 4.9 million. Both those totals include 810,000 barrels that were collected during clean-up and which Barbier has agreed to exclude.
This month, BP’s lawyers questioned the government’s figure. “United States experts employ unproven methods that require significant assumptions and extrapolations in lieu of … available data and other evidence,” they said in a filing.
They have also sought to convince Barbier that if the company is to be found guilty, it should amount to only “negligence” and not “gross negligence” – a crucial distinction since the latter carries much higher maximum penalties.
Under the Clean Water Act, negligence can be punished with a maximum fine of $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled; a gross negligence verdict carries a potential $4,300 per barrel fine.
If the court judged the spill to have been 4.09 million barrels – the government estimate less oil recovered – the price of negligence could reach $4.5 billion. Gross negligence, in the costliest scenario, could run to $17.6 billion.<
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