BP Gulf Oil Spill Trial To Starts Today
NEW ORLEANS, LA – A class action civil trial stemming from the BP oil disaster gets underway Monday in Federal court in New Orleans. Millions of gallons of oil polluted the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. BP has already paid out billions to settle hundreds of thousands of claims. But, talks to resolve the rest broke down.
Almost 3 years after the deepwater horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people, and causing one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. BP is fighting to limit the financial penalties it faces. While the oil giant’s critics hope to see landmark punishment.
“It should be the maximum end of the fines and the damage done here is real, both to the environment and to the people, and BP should not have the chance to get off cheaply on this.” said Brian Moore of the National Audubon Society.
This is a complex trial, the judge has broken it up into two phases. Phase one will focus on the actions that led up to the explosion. The judge will determine if bp is “negligent” or “grossly negligent.” That one word, grossly, is worth billions and billions of dollars.
Phase 2 will determine the financial penalties BP And others will face for violating the clean water act and the natural resource damage assessment.
If BP is found to be “grossly negligent” under the clean water act it could be fined as much as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled into the gulf waters. Now, it’s estimated that some 4.9-million barrels of oil spilled into the gulf. The judge is giving BP credit for the 800,000 that it cleaned up, which leaves about 4.1 million barrels still out there to be fined. That brings the total to about $17-billion dollars. That’s opnly if BP is found grossly negligent. If the company is found simply negligent, the fines could drop to about $1,100 per barrel, and that averages out to be about $4.5 billion dollars in fines that the company would face.
However BP lawyers say they could get the fines even lower than that. Then there the fines related to the national resource damage assessment. These are fines to restore the environmental damage caused by the spill. This basically puts a price tag on every animal killed and wildlife damaged by oil.
Environmental groups want to see fines in the range of $25-billion dollars. with that much money at stake, each side is bringing an army of lawyers to the fight.
Almost 60 lawyers in all will fill the courtroom. The judge created a seating chart for all the attorneys. The government lawyers on one side while BP’s lawyers and other companies’ lawyers sit across the room.
BP says it will “vigorously” defend itself against charges of gross negligence. But, environmentalists say the oilspill disaster still haunts the gulf waters.
“You know, one of our kind of things we say and have said around this issue is you broke it, you bought it. BP has certainly caused a lot of damage here and letting them off on the cheap in any way shape or form is the wrong thing to do.”
Ed Lavandera, CNN, New Orleans.