BP to 'vigorously defend' itself in US oil spill trial
AFPCHICAGO--British energy giant BP vowed Tuesday to “vigorously defend” itself in court next week against U.S. government claims for “excessive” fines in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.
February 21, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
Prosecutors shot back with a warning that they will be fighting for the stiffest penalties possible at a blockbuster trial which opens Monday with tens of billions of dollars at stake.
“The United States is fully prepared for trial,” Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, told AFP.
“We intend to prove that BP was grossly negligent and engaged in willful misconduct in causing the oil spill.”
The mammoth trial in a New Orleans, Louisiana federal courthouse consolidates scores of remaining lawsuits stemming from the worst environmental disaster to strike the United States.
The first phase of the trial will focus on liability for the April 20, 2010 explosion that sank the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana.
The blast killed 11 people and unleashed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf, blackening beaches in five states and crippling tourism and fishing industries.
It took 87 days to cap BP's runaway well in a tragedy that riveted the nation.
BP is fighting civil penalties which could amount to as much as US$21 billion if gross negligence is found.
“Gross negligence is a very high bar that BP believes cannot be met in this case,” Rupert Bondy, group general counsel at BP, said in a statement.
In addition to fighting the federal government over environmental fines, BP is also seeking to shift some of the liability to its subcontractors, drilling rig operator Transocean and Halliburton, which was responsible for the well's faulty cement job.
BP pleaded guilty in November to criminal charges — including felony manslaughter — and agreed to pay a record US$4.5 billion in criminal fines.