A US court ruling that dramatically ramped up BP Plc’s potential penalties for the 2010 Gulf oil spill could create new liability risks not just for deep water drillers but also for other industries like mining and nuclear power generation.
US District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Thursday found BP guilty of “gross negligence” ahead of the rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
The April 20, 2010 blast killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of oil for nearly three months.
The “gross negligence” designation could quadruple BP’s federal financial penalties, adding as much as $18 billion to the bill for worst offshore environmental disaster in US history.
BP said it would appeal the decision, arguing that “the law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case.”
Legal experts said that if Barbier’s interpretation is upheld and adopted by other courts, it may leave a range of industries more exposed to potentially greater penalties.
Barbier’s ruling remains a long way from setting a wide-ranging legal precedent. Considering the stakes, the case could drag on for years, ultimately landing before the US Supreme Court.
In reaching his finding of “gross negligence,” Barbier said BP employees misread a safety test, and that the company was responsible for their actions. He listed a series of what he described as negligent acts, including mistakes in drilling the final 100 feet of the Macondo well. All these acts together, he said, constituted a “conscious disregard of known risks.”
(Source: The News-International)