BP fines could quadruple in Clean Water Act case

By Alex Galbraith
BP could be on the hook for up to $18 billion in civil penalties stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled that the oil company acted with “willful misconduct” and “gross negligence” leading to the spill. Barbier was responsible for doling out responsibility for the oil rig explosion in which 11 workers lost their lives and the subsequent dumping of millions of gallons of oil from the Macondo well into the Gulf of Mexico. The judge attributed 67 percent of liability in the worst oil spill in U.S. history to BP. Transocean Ltd., who owned the rig was assigned 30 percent of the liability. Halliburton Energy Services, as the cement contractor on the Macondo well, were found liable for three percent of the disaster. The tag of “gross negligence” takes on particular significance under the provisions of the Clean Water Act. A company found to be merely negligent faces penalties of up to $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled. Gross negligence nearly quadruples the fine, leading to penalties of up to $4,300 per barrel spilled. Normally, such penalties would be paid to the Environmental Protection Agency and would enter the federal treasury. However, the RESTORE Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2012 dedicates 80% of all BP’s penalties to Gulf Coast restoration. 
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