Resumed BP trial hinges on just how bad the spill actually was

BP could be found responsible to the tune of anywhere from $2.7 billion to $18 billion

Topics: Gulf Oil Spill, BP, Clean Water Act, us government, environmentalists, , ,

Over three years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 workers and sent oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, BP today enters the second phase of its civil trial.

At issue is just how much oil spilled, and what BP did about it. We know, for example, that the spill was “massive.” But was it 103 million gallons massive, as BP maintains, or more to the tune of 4.2 million barrels — the equivalent of about a quarter of the oil consumed in one day in the U.S. — as the federal government alleges?

And while the government will be arguing that BP ignored decades of warnings about the risk of such an explosion happening, the company’s attorneys wrote that it deserves “recognition, not condemnation” for its response to the explosion.

At stake are the fines imposed by the Clean Water Act, which vary widely depending on whether negligence is determined to have been “simple” or “gross.” According to the New York Times, BP could end up paying just $2.7 billion. But if it’s determined to have spilled both the maximum amount of oil and committed the maximum amount of negligence, the fine could go as high as $18 billion — enough, according to one oil analysis quoted in the Times, to “wipe out all of their cash.”



BP has already admitted negligence in misreading tests leading up to explosion; last year, it pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges, including manslaughter. So far, it’s paid $4.5 billion in fines and spent $42 billion on cleanup and compensation. While there are no caps on victim compensation fees, the company’s been aggressively trying to get out of paying any more. Environmentalists, according to the New Orleans’ Times-Picayune, are hoping the renewed scrutiny brought by this next phase of the trial will make it easier to hold BP accountable for the disaster’s consequences.

The trial, which is being presided over by a federal judge without a jury, is expected to last 16 days.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...