A woman walks her dog on the beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana, on April 19, a few days after BP announced it was formally ending its cleanup on the Louisiana coast from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

BP Ruled Grossly Negligent in 2010 Oil Spill

Sept. 4, 2014
BP potentially faces billions of dollars in new fines after a New Orleans judge concluded it acted with "gross negligence" ahead of the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

NEW YORK – BP (IW 1000/4) potentially faces billions of dollars in new fines after a New Orleans judge concluded it acted with "gross negligence" ahead of the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Federal court judge Carl Barbier said that the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blowout, which killed 11 and spilled millions of barrels of oil into Gulf waters, happened because BP's U.S. subsidiaries, along with oil-services company Halliburton and rig owner Transocean, did not take adequate care in drilling a risky well.

Barbier said the British oil giant knew that the Macondo well it was drilling—called by some working on it the "well from hell"—was particularly dangerous because of the high danger of a blowout.

BP's decisions throughout the drilling process qualified as "gross negligence" because they were "an extreme departure from the care required under the circumstances or a failure to exercise even a slight care."

He also said BP's role involved "willful misconduct," adding to the penalties that, based on a maximum fine of $4,300 per barrel spilled, could result in a fine of up to $18 billion under the Clean Water Act.

As the operator of the project, BP is solely liable for the penalties arising from violations of the Clean Water Act.

Barbier, who is also considering a number of private maritime suits on the spill, ruled that Halliburton and Transocean were both "negligent" and assigned them a portion of the responsibility that could affect damages in these cases.

BP was 67% responsible for the accident, Transocean was 30% responsible and Halliburton 3% responsible.

Transocean called Thursday's ruling "favorable and welcome" because the judge "has again ratified the industry-standard allocation of liability between drilling contractors and the owners and operators of oil wells."

Halliburton said it was "pleased" with the ruling, which means "the Macondo case is essentially over for Halliburton." On Monday, Halliburton announced a $1.1 billion settlement with the Gulf fishing industry and other victims of the disaster.

In afternoon New York trade, BP shares were 5.9% lower at $44.90, Halliburton was down 1.8% at $66.36, and Transocean down 1.6% at $37.45.

By John Biers

Copyright Agence France-Presse 2014

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