BP goes on trial – were they negligent, or GROSSLY negligent?

  • Published on February 25th, 2013

BP oil rig on fireThis is not a position any corporation wants to be in. But in their trial for damages and fines for the worst oil spill in US history, BP’s big play is that they were negligent, but not GROSSLY negligent.

The trail, which opened today in New Orleans, will also feature as much fingerpointing as possible, as BP attempts to deflect the blame for the explosion and fire on the Madando Deepwater Horizon oil platform that that led the spillage of untold millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico onto their partners, including Halliburton and Transocean.

They’ll also continue to try to obfuscate just HOW much oil was dumped. And how bad the environmental damage was.

The money involved is staggering… unless you consider the spectacular amount of damage done.

  • BP has already payed $4.5bn to settle criminal charges
  • Civil fines could run anywhere from $4.5 billion to $17.6 billion
  • That high end would be the largest civil fine in history, which would probably be appropriate.

BPs strategy will be to limit their overall liability, plus try to deflect as much as possible onto tax-deductible items. Which would mean that even as BP is BP_Logo_taintedsocked with the biggest fines in history, it will actually be us, the US taxpayers, who end up footing a good chunk of that bill.

The New York Times notes:

The plan, worth a total of $16 billion, would limit the fines paid by BP under the Clean Water Act to $6 billion, a proposal that could help reduce its tax liability, said one person briefed on the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

BP would also pay $9 billion in penalties to cover damages to natural resources as well as the cost of restoration, that person said. The remaining $1 billion would be set aside in a fund that could be tapped if unanticipated environmental damages related to the spill developed.

And the Wall Street Journal adds:

BP’s potential Clean Water Act fines could run as high as $17.6 billion, but the company has said they would likely be less than $5 billion. The NRDA payments could also run into the billions, but they are tax deductible for BP.”BP must be found to have been grossly negligent in its role leading up to the blowout and spill to receive the highest penalty. The company has said it wasn’t grossly negligent, and prosecutors and plaintiffs have a high bar to clear to prove otherwise.”



About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • When oil was found, it could not be contained because the blowout gasket was destroyed earlier during the government mandated test of that gasket. From what I have read, this is the first time a blowout gasket was destroyed during such a test. During that test, the pipe was clamped at the top on the drilling rig and at the bottom by the blowout gasket. It was as if something very large hit the pipe sideways at a significant depth to cause the pipe to rip out the blowout gasket. Something larger and stronger then a whale that could bend a steel pipe almost a foot in diameter and almost an inch thick. The recommendation from the owners of the platform was to repair the blowout gasket or start over drilling at a different locations. They were overruled. Who ordered to drill without protection? It is as if someone wanted an accident as an excuse to shut down United States drilling in the Gulf.