June 5, 2014
BP and Anadarko Petroleum could face billions of dollars in fines after an appeals court ruled they were automatically liable for pollution-law violations as co-owners of the well that blew out and started the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans yesterday upheld a lower-court decision that allows the U.S. to seek a maximum fine from London-based BP of $18 billion if it’s found grossly negligent for its actions surrounding the spill. Anadarko, which owned a 25 percent interest in the well, is facing a maximum penalty of $4.6 billion.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who made the initial ruling, will determine the size of the fines, based on factors including the degree of fault and attempts to fix the damage. His decision on whether BP was grossly negligent under the U.S. Clean Water Act is pending. He has already ruled that Anadarko wasn’t.
The April 2010 Macondo well blowout and explosion killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The accident spurred thousands of lawsuits against BP and its contractors Transocean Ltd. (RIG), the owner of the drilling rig, and Halliburton Co. (HAL), which provided cementing services for the project.