[F]ocus on determining how much oil flowed into the gulf and what will it cost the companies. Was it the 2.45 million gallons that BP contends, or the more than 4 million gallons estimated by government scientists? Depending in part on that calculation, BP could be exposed to as much as $17 billion in fines for violating the Clean Water Act, the largest environmental penalty in U.S. history. A portion of the fines is earmarked for gulf restoration.…
Last week a study by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi found the blowout had damaged marine life for 57 square miles from the blast site, concluding that recovery could take a generation or more.
Tar balls are still found on beaches as far away as Florida. And this summer, a 40,000-pound tar mat — a slab of oil residue mixed with sand — was found on a Louisiana barrier island.
A 40,000-pound tar mat? Add that to the list of top 10 reasons a 2013 vacation got ruined. Explains Bloomberg,
If the company is found by Barbier to have acted with gross negligence in causing the explosion or extending the spill, it faces a maximum penalty of $18 billion under the Clean Water Act, using the government estimate, and a maximum of $10.5 billion, using the BP assessment. The maximum fines if Barbier rejects gross negligence would be $2.7 billion under the BP assessment and $4.6 billion using the government numbers.
Ironic, huh. We could probably keep the government running a couple days just on the size of the prefered government fine alone. So that’s something! (And lucky for BP, the federal judiciary isn’t expected to shut down right away, unlike, say, the collection of trash in our nation’s Capitol. Perhaps some Tea Party Congresspeople would like to volunteer for clean-up detail?)
“BP willfully, with the intent to deceive, misrepresented its knowledge of the flow rate causing it to eschew available source control methods that would have stopped the flow of oil weeks earlier,” lawyers for the plaintiffs and co-defendants said in a Sept. 18 court filing.
BP has countered that its estimates on the flow rate weren’t used to determine which method to use to stop the gusher and that it tried the safest option first. The London-based company also contends the U.S. approved and oversaw all the decisions on capping the Macondo well.
But Brian Barr, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, “called the government regulators’ approval of the spill response plan 'irrelevant.… The government is not in the business of drilling wells. That’s BP’s business,' he said. 'BP’s plan was nothing more than a plan to plan.'”
Here’s another interesting twist:
Transocean and Halliburton, defendants in the first phase of the trial over the fault for the blowout, are aligned in this phase with the plaintiffs suing BP, including the states of Louisiana and Alabama. The two contractors contend that the well could have been capped as early as May 15, 2010, reducing by about 70 percent the amount of oil ultimately spilled.
The well wasn’t capped until July 15, 2010. And if you’ve forgotten what that 3-month underwater oil gush looked like, check out live coverage of the trial here.