BP asks fine not be based on total of spill


BP says the U.S. government should calculate any criminal fines related for last year’s Gulf oil spill based on how many days the Macondo well flowed, not on how many barrels of crude leaked.

In court filings Tuesday, the oil giant responded to a lawsuit filed in December by the Department of Justice that seeks civil environmental penalties based on an estimated 4.1 million barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers.

The well was capped July 15 and permanently sealed Sept. 19.

Federal officials said in their lawsuit that they would seek civil penalties of between $1,000 and $4,300 per barrel based on whether it was determined there was willful negligence involved in the accident.

BP said in the court filings it was not willfully negligent and that federal officials should use a different method for assessing fines under the Clean Water Act — levying a fixed fine for every day the well flowed. That fine is $32,500 per day.

Using the daily figure fines could run from $2.8 million to $4.9 million, depending on whether one uses the date the well was capped or permanently sealed. The per-barrel figure could lead to fines ranging from $4.1 billion to more than $20 billion.

BP’s partners in the well, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and MOEX Offshore, a unit of Japan’s Mitusi, also filed papers in court this week denying they acted negligently or engaged in willful misconduct.

BP said in its filings it believes the other companies should share remediation costs and fines, and that cleanup and restoration costs the U.S. charges BP should be reduced by whatever sums BP has paid or will pay state governments for those same services.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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