Last Thursday, a federal judge in New Orleans denied BP’s request to limit its environmental penalties for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Setting this fine is the final step in a civil case regarding the April 20, 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo subsea well, which caused the spill. Following the blowout, a sea-floor oil gusher flowed for eighty-seven days. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
Judge Carl Barbier had previously ruled that BP had acted with gross negligence. BP argued that the Clean Water act capped the fine for such cases at $3,000 per barrel of oil spilled. Furthermore, BP maintained that the fine should reflect the company’s extensive cleanup efforts in the Gulf. However, the United States Justice Department lawyers contested that Congress validly instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise the statutory maximum fines to account for inflation. Judge Barbier agreed, finding that the EPA had the authority to adjust fines to comply with the Inflation Adjustment Act. The EPA set maximum environmental fines for $4,300 for each barrel of crude oil spilled. The Coast Guard set penalties at $4,000.
The court has not yet determined when it will set the fine, but if the EPA’s figures are used the fine could run as high as $13.7 billion based on the earlier finding that 3.19 million barrels spilled into the Gulf. BP has already incurred costs in excess of $42 billion for the spill, including cleanup, compensation to victims, and fines.
Certain types of work present unique risks for employees, but when someone is injured or dies due to an employer’s negligence, financial recovery may be available. If you or someone you know has been injured on an oil rig, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 800-594-4884.