BP May Be Liable For Billions In Civil Damages For Gulf Oil Spill, Judge Rules

Remember all that back and forth about how much oil really spilled during the Gulf Oil Spill, whose estimate was more accurate, BP's, the US government's, independent estimates? The significance of all that has just come into high relief following a ruling by Judge Carl Barbier in US District Court in New Orleans.

Judge Barbier has ruled that BP and Anadarko Petroleum are liable for civil damages from the Gulf Oil Spill under the Oil Pollution Act and Clean Water Act. BP and Anadarko own 65% and 25% of the Macondo Well, respectively.

Reuters quotes Judge Barbier:

Anadarko and BP were the ones directly engaged in the enterprise which caused the spill. If Congress envisioned that the owner of the offshore facility would have to respond to an oil spill such as this one, then it is logical that they would also be the party upon whom the civil penalty is imposed.

Under the Clean Water Act, fines of $1100 per barrel of oil could be sought, increasing to $4,300 per barrel if "gross negligence" or "willful misconduct" is found.

Though original BP tried to claim that just 5,000 barrels per day flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, ultimately an estimated 53,000 barrels per day was spilled, totaling 4.1-4.9 million barrels by the time the leak was capped on July 15, 2010.

On the low end of the scale of fines, that means $4.5 billion is on the line. Or $17.63 billion if gross negligence comes into it.

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